4IR: Weathering the storm

Wednesday, 28 September 2022


4IR: Weathering the storm

Throughout the world climate change impacts our earth with extreme droughts, storms and flooding. This also affects source water quality and sea levels rising. In short, we need to adapt our traditional ways of managing water to alleviate the negative impact of climate change. Fourth Industrial Revolution technology (4IR) can assist.

How extreme weather can be spotted timeously with 4IR Tech
Although adverse weather cannot be averted, knowing to a higher degree of accuracy when and where severe weather can be expected helps with prevention and recovery. The advanced 4IR technologies play a significant role in modern weather pattern detection.

A leader in the field is IBM. The company’s Global High-Resolution Atmospheric Forecasting System (IBM GRAF) “helps democratize weather forecasts so people, businesses and governments — anywhere — can make better decisions”.

IBM says its system can predict conditions up to 12 hours in advance and covers parts of the world which have not had access to such detailed data. Regions covered include Asia, Africa and South America, in addition to Europe and North America. Impressively, IBM says other global weather models cover 10 – 15 kilometres squared and are updated every six to 12 hours. IBM’s system will forecast down to 3 km squared and update hourly.

“The enhanced forecasts could be revolutionary for some areas of the world, such as for a rural farmer in India or Kenya,” believes Cameron Clayton, head of The Weather Company, a subsidiary of IBM.

“If you’ve never before had access to high-resolution weather data but could now anticipate thunderstorms before they approach your fields, you can better plan for planting or harvesting,” he enthuses.

Watch this informative video about what the Weather Company calls “Democratizing the World’s Weather Data”.

In South Africa we can hold our own when it comes to using advanced technology for more accurate weather forecasting. As “the only World Meteorological Organization (WMO)-designated long-range global modelling centre in Africa”, the South African Weather Service (SAWS) is a long-term user of a powerful Cray supercomputer, giving it advanced weather modelling capability.

The US Trade and Development Agency says: “South Africa has one of the world’s most effective weather forecasting and warning systems, providing accurate and important information to millions of citizens and strengthening climate resilience for a wide range of industries from agriculture to aviation.”

Practically, super computers such as the SAWS Cray runs complicated artificial intelligence (AI) and other programmes that use numerous data sets collected from a myriad network of observational weather stations. In South Africa these can be as sophisticated as the Global Atmosphere Watch Station at Cape Point or as straightforward as the country’s 47 weather buoys in the South Atlantic and South Indian Ocean.

The trick is to assemble and analyse a multitude of separate data points and mix all of these into a whole that provides the basis of automated, scientifically sound and accurate weather predictions, all at lightning speed. It is thus fair to say that weather prediction, especially early warning of disastrous-level events cannot be done without the sophistication of 4IR Tech.

In simple terms, with these ever more powerful computational capabilities, 4IR Tech can literally save lives by enabling early detection of weather to watch.

Water and technology do mix
Climate change throughout the world impacts on water management in the following ways: Droughts, storms and flooding, source water quality, sea level rise and because of the need for “general utility preparedness”. In short, we need to adapt our traditional ways of managing water to alleviate the negative impact of climate change. Technology can assist.

Apart from the civil infrastructure required to manage water in the climate change era, monitoring water for early detection of upcoming problems such as leakage of potable water is helped through technologies such as “smart monitoring”.

In the article “The new water technologies that could save the planet” published in The Guardian, Dale Hartley, director of business development at SebaKMT, a water leak detection specialist, extols the virtues of leak prevention: “It does not make commercial sense to invest billions in additional reservoirs and water catchment, treatment plants [and] pumping stations, when as much as 60% of water produced is unaccounted for.”

Intelligent systems using Internet of Things (IoT) smart connections can now provide early leakage warnings using a variety of linked electronic instruments such as pressure and acoustic sensors.

In South Africa, innovative water management companies such as Cape Town-based Smart-View Technology use 4IR Tech including IoT, to help businesses and individuals manage water better. The company says its “Smart-View Utilities enable industrial, residential and retail customer to reduce wastewater and become energy efficient through actionable insights and early anomaly detection with the use of machine learning.

After the water scarcity crisis caused by severe drought in Cape Town in 2018, Virgin Active gyms continued to use advanced technology IoT devices powered by Smart-View Technology to understand their water usage patterns. “This also helped discover leaks and inefficiencies that were not evident before. Using this data Virgin-Active could set a baseline threshold on each gym and monitor water usage during non-operational hours.”

Apart from monitoring, water management is improved through 4IR Tech with processes such as thermal hydrolysis. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), DC Water was the first plant in North America to adopt the process.

“Using this process creates biogas and has enabled DC Water’s Blue Plains Advanced Treatment Plant to generate 10 megawatts of electricity, which is about one-third of the plant’s energy requirement.”

So, not only is water management more efficient if treated in new and innovative ways, but it can also generate clean energy at the same time. Now that’s what we call 4IR Tech at work to help alleviate climate change.

Visit and tune in to the next UJ Cloudebate™ to learn more.

Weather and water (18:00, 28 September 2022)
Climate change has a direct impact on weather changes because a warmer earth leads to ice caps melting and the ocean level rising, while floods and other severe weather patterns can lead to the disruption of agriculture and general living conditions. With 4IR technologies, the change in weather patterns can potentially be detected earlier so that alleviation measures can be implemented more timeously.


Previous UJ Cloudebate™: Recycling and reforestation

Watch the second UJ Cloudebate™ of 2022 here.


Catherine Constantinides (Host)

South Africa’s Change Agent: Catherine Constantinides @changeagentsa
Social Entrepreneur | Humanitarian | Earth Warrior | Global Activist I Leader Of Change

Proudly rooted in her home country of South Africa, Catherine is an international climate activist, human rights defender, trailblazer and agent of change.

A 2013 Archbishop Tutu African Oxford Fellow and 2016 Mandela Washington Fellow, Catherine’s commitment and passion for social change takes her to the smallest of communities in South Africa, as well as global platforms including the UN, where she currently works as a human rights defender actively engaging in Geneva at the UN Human Rights Council for the world’s most marginalised and vulnerable .

Catherine’s recent work on the issue of the self-determination for the people of Western Sahara has seen her engaged on the ground in the refugee camps in North Africa as well as with political leadership across the continent and around the world to highlight the conflict and lack of political will to address, one of the longest outstanding issues on the UN Security Council agenda.

She travels extensively across the continent, and to all corners of the world to speak about citizenship, social justice, active citizens, people & planet and the role of leadership, with a special focus on the empowerment of women and children. In November 2017 she was an invited panelist at the inaugural Obama Summit hosted by former President Barack Obama, in Chicago. Just a few months ago she was the guest of President of Egypt,  Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, when she was invited to give the closing keynote address to the World Youth Forum to a convention centre of more than 5000 young people and a nationwide broadcast to more than 100Million people across Egypt.

While she is relentless in pursuing justice for forgotten and downtrodden people, Catherine has always used inspiration and positive motivation as a means to create change. Her own social media platforms as well as her speaking appointments and media work always reflect a proactive approach and a desire to spark others to change or to become drivers of change by embedding ‘hope’ as a golden thread of action.

She understands the power of media – both traditional and new platforms to spread important messages, and is regularly featured on TV, radio and in print, in South Africa and across the continent

She has been the resident judge and mentor on the highly acclaimed reality TV series; ‘One Day Leader’, a show aimed at empowering South African youth, challenging their critical thinking skills and harnessing their ability as leaders in their communities. She has been featured in numerous publications and on TV and radio shows as a thought leader, and also contributes to Huffington Post, Daily Maverick and other platforms.

In 2015 she was named one of South Africa’s 21 Icons for a campaign highlighting remarkable young South Africans who will move the country forward. In 2016 the South African Government and Department of International Relations (DIRCO) honoured her with an UBUNTU Award, celebrating South Africans who play a part in portraying a positive image of South Africa, internationally and who are committed to building the continent through diplomacy. She has been celebrated for excellence in the fields of entrepreneurship and business, and in 2018 was ranked as one of the top 100 Most Influential Young Africans, and placed Top 10 in her category of Social Entrepreneur and Philanthropy. In 2018 as the world celebrates the iconic former Statesman, Nelson Mandela, Catherine has been dubbed as one of the 100 Young Mandela’s of the Future.

Amid all of her commitments, Catherine remains active in Generation Earth, a UN Environment endorsed platform that she co-founded at the beginning of her career. Generation Earth targets the youth of Southern Africa and uses issues of environmental impact, climate change, water and waste as key focus areas to drive sustainable change. Under her leadership this initiative has thrived and evolved into a multifaceted development network that empowers the youth to become drivers for change in their own lives and spheres of influence. She remains a dynamic environmental warrior and the theme of sustainable development and her commitment to the SDG’s comes through in her advocacy work around the world.

Catherine’s passion and drive has touched hundreds of thousands of individuals, whether through inspiration, practical interventions, workshops, advice or through the impact of her advocacy work on the ground at a grass roots level.

Professor Tafadzwa Mabhaudhi

Research Group Leader: Sustainable and Resilient Food Systems at the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) and an Honorary Research Associate Professor at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN). Tafadzwa has experience in research, development, capacity building and building partnerships across academia, public and private sectors, civil society, and communities. He conducts multi- and transdisciplinary research covering sustainable and resilient food systems, global environmental change and the water-energy-food nexus. His goal is to work on research and development that is dynamic, transformative, informs policy and achieves real-life impacts within poor communities.

Professor Chris Curtis

Biogeochemist at the University of Johannesburg’s Department of Geography Environment Management and Energies Studies. Prof Curtis is interested in environmental change in aquatic systems. His studies have focussed primarily on the impacts of air pollution and climate change on the ecosystems of upland, arctic and alpine lakes and streams using hydrochemical models, stable isotope techniques and palaeolimnology. As a biogeochemist, he has also done experimental work with soils, vegetation and trace gas fluxes as well as surface waters. He has worked on international projects in various regions including European mountain lakes, boreal forest lakes in the Oil Sands Region of Alberta, Canada and arctic lakes in Greenland. He is currently broadening his interests to look at the multiple pressures on aquatic systems in Southern Africa, including acid mine drainage, eutrophication and acid deposition.

Dr Stewart Bernard

Stewart Bernard holds a PhD in bio-optics and a MSc in Physical Oceanography from the University of Cape Town, South Africa, and a BSc Hons in Oceanography with Physics from the University of Southampton, United Kingdom. His key competencies are in the field of ocean colour, specifically in the bio-optical modelling and characterisation of phytoplankton and the development of new ocean colour methods to observe the phytoplankton community. He has also led the development of new capabilities for operational harmful algal bloom and inland eutrophication monitoring. He has played a strong role in international community building and was chair of the International Ocean Colour Co-ordinating Group from 2014 – 2017. Dr. Stewart Bernard was the principal researcher at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) until August 2020. He is currently Chief Scientist at the South African National Space Agency (SANSA), Lead of the GMES and Africa MarCOSouth Consortium and Chief Scientific Officer of the AIR Centre.

Alex Malapane

Alex Malapane is the Acting Senior Manager: Research and Innovation at South African Weather Service and a PhD Candidate at the North West University.

Alex Malapane is the current General Chair for the 4IR Indaba Convention. He is Currently acting in the role of Senior Manager: Research and Innovation at South African Weather Service (SAWS). He serves in several high-level panels, boards, academia, directorships, including board chairmanship at Zarfro Group International. Alex was rated in the Top 50 of global thought leaders and influencers for risk and change management in 2019. In the same year, Alex discovered a new data analytic technique [Alex Malapane Data Mining Technique – AMDMT-0001] which was presented and accepted at the IEEE Systems Information and Engineering Design Symposium (SIEDS) at University of Virginia. Academically, he holds a bachelor’s degree in Earth Science: Mine Surveying, B-Tech in Project Management, Postgraduate Diploma in Management as well as a Master of Business Administration (MBA). Alex is currently pursuing a Doctoral Degree (PhD) in Economic and Management Sciences at the North West University were his research focuses on developing a framework for E-Commerce in South Africa. His expertise spans from Research and Development, Innovation Management, Monitoring and Evaluation, Strategic Projects and Operations Management, Strategy and Policy Development. He is a conference speaker, facilitator, moderator, author and a professional. He has a global footprint in management consulting. Alex is recently providing public lectures on a subject, “Tracking the Future: The Fourth Industrial Revolution”.