The Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet) has issued a warning to pilots and the general public to be cautious of thunderstorms and other hazardous weather events as the rainy season begins in some parts of the country. The warning is in line with the Seasonal Climate Prediction (SCP) presented by the agency in January this year.
NiMet predicted an earlier rainfall onset than the long-term average in most parts of the country during the 2023 SCP. The onset is expected to begin from the coastal states of Bayelsa, Rivers and Akwa-Ibom in early March, followed progressively by the inland states and the central states. Recent thunderstorms recorded over parts of the coastal and inland states confirm the accuracy of the agency’s prediction.
Thunderstorms can cause significant disruptions, leading to turbulence, lightning strikes, strong winds, heavy rainfall, downdraught, microburst and hailstones, which pose a threat to safety and property. The aviation industry is particularly at risk, as the effects of thunderstorms can cause delays, diversions and cancellations of flights.
NiMet has installed weather monitoring systems, thunder detectors, satellite receiving ground-stations and Automatic Weather System (AWS) across airports and other stations nationwide to mitigate the effects of thunderstorms. The agency has also developed products and services to track thunderstorms and their attendant hazards, with pilot briefing rooms available for services.
NiMet advised all pilots and airline operators to exercise caution during flight operations due to the commencement of the rainy season. The rains, currently prevalent in the southern parts of Nigeria and occasionally around the central states, are usually accompanied by severe thunderstorms that affect air navigation.
In a statement by NiMet’s general manager for public relations, Muntair Ibrahim, NiMet urged pilots and flight crew members to obtain adequate weather information and briefing from NiMet offices before flight operations for effective planning in their air navigation operations.