Project IMPALA (Improving Model Processes for African cLimAte)

Principal Investigator: Catherine Senior (Met Office)

Project Manager: Richard Graham (Met Office)

Co-investigator: Professor Doug Parker (Leeds)

Project IMPALA is a project sponsored by Future Climate for Africa (FCFA) and jointly funded by the Department for International Development and the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC). 


There is large uncertainty and low scientific confidence in important aspects of the projections for Africa’s climate in the next 5–40 years. Project IMPALA aims to tackle some of the major scientific hurdles by improving the ability of current climate models to capture African climate systems. This project will focus on a single climate model, the Met Office Unified Model, to improve its simulation of African climate through a better understanding and representation of weather and climate processes.

The initiative aims to deliver a step change in the global climate model capability that will reduce uncertainty and enable better-informed evaluation of the robustness of future projections.

Key Objectives

The key objectives of project IMPALA are:

  • To improve the representation of the local processes in climate models which influence the mean state and drive regional variability in the African climate. Specifically, to develop more realistic parametrization schemes for convection and land-surface processes and to improve the representation of mineral dust and biomass burning aerosols.
  • Determine causes of errors in teleconnections and large-scale drivers controlling African climate and deliver a strategy for improvements, including understanding the interplay between remote drivers and local processes in present-day and future climate.
  • To deliver more trustworthy model projections from the Met Office Unified Model over Africa on the 5-40 year timescale and a methodology and evaluation metrics to assess the robustness of projections in a wide range of contemporary international models.
  • To enable regional consortia within FCFA to assess the robustness of multi-model projections by delivering the first dataset of idealised climate change simulations from a convective-permitting pan-Africa simulation. Decision makers and climate service users can then harness this to improve risk management.


The IMPALA project will develop, for the first time, a pan-African very high resolution model (grid-spacing of around 4km) to better capture key processes and local-scale weather phenomena including extremes, providing new understanding of the roles played by these processes in African climate variability and change.

The improved knowledge and new simulations will be used by scientists in four regional research projects (AMMA-2050, FRACTAL, HyCRISTAL and UMFULA). This, in turn, will deliver more reliable information for decision-makers and scientists in a range of sectors including agriculture, urban and rural water resources, health and infrastructure management and renewable energy.

This will result in reduced uncertainty in future projections of the African climate and provide valuable information to climate scientists and modellers within Africa and worldwide, and empower decision-makers with information that can be used to reduce risks and help protect the livelihoods of the most vulnerable. 

Papers (to which Leeds researchers have contributed)

Birch, C. E., C. Rio, R. McCrary, P. Bechtold, M. Willett, J. Marsham, 2017: A better diurnal cycle of convection leads to a better representation of the West African Monsoon across modelling systems, J. Climate. (in review) 

Project Partners
Met Office (UK)

African Centre of Meteorological Applications for Development

Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (UK)

University of Cape Town

University of Exeter

University of Nairobi

University of Oxford

University of Reading

University of Yaoundé 

Climate lead:

Professor Piers Forster

Climate lead:

Dr John Marsham


Dr Cathryn Birch


Dr Lawrence Jackson 


IMPALA project manager richard.graham(at)

Future Climate for Africa overview of project IMPALA

Future Climate for Africa brochure






The Department for International Development