How radio stations can share weather information with rural listeners


“Weather” refers to the atmospheric conditions at a specific time and place. Atmospheric conditions include measures such as temperature, sunshine, humidity, wind, air pressure, precipitation, cloud cover, and visibility.

Weather greatly impacts the lives and livelihoods of individuals and communities. Broadcasters and weather experts such as meteorological agents can play a crucial role by sharing accurate and timely information about what kinds of weather listeners can expect. This guide equips broadcasters with the knowledge needed to effectively share weather updates, forecasts, and advice.

Why are weather forecasts and weather trends important to listeners?

Weather forecasts and trends:

  • Help to inform and advise the public about severe weather such as storms, heavy precipitation, hurricanes, or heat waves, allowing them to take necessary precautions and minimize risks.
  • Help manage air, land, and sea transportation by providing information on potential disruptions, delays, and hazardous weather.
  • Help farmers manage livestock, for example, by adapting to the effects of climate change, including predicted droughts, heavy rains, and heat.
  • Help listeners organize and plan agropastoral activities as well as their daily lives. Weather forecasts help individuals plan outdoor activities such as hiking, camping, or sports, ensuring they can enjoy their time while staying safe and comfortable.
  • Help farmers select appropriate crops or varieties to plant, the types and amount of inputs needed (e.g., fertilizer and pesticides), organize irrigation and monthly marketing and advertising activities, arrange for drying and storage, and plan and implement other activities that depend on whether the expected seasonal weather conforms or departs from long-term trends.

How can sharing weather information help me serve my listeners better?

Sharing weather information can:

  • Help listeners stay safe and be prepared for predicted weather.
  • Build a loyal following and dedicated listeners.

How can sharing weather information help me produce better programs?

  • Incorporating weather-related segments or features can enhance program content.
  • Localized weather information can make your shows more locally relevant by providing information that is critical to tactical and strategic decision-making in rural communities.
  • Relevant, timely weather updates can create a stronger connection with your audience, as can allowing your audience to provide updates on how they are preparing for a predicted weather event.

How do I get started?

  1. What is a weather forecast?
  2. Convert daily weather information into different radio formats.
  3. Use language that listeners can understand and information that listeners can use.
  4. Use plain language to communicate technical terms related to weather.
  5. Provide practical weather information and weather advisories for different groups of listeners.
  6. Plan segments on the seasonal weather forecast.
  7. Emergency weather alerts.
  8. Understand percentages and probabilities.
  9. Collaborate with weather experts.


1. What is a weather forecast?

A weather forecast is a prediction of future atmospheric conditions for a specific location for a specific period. The forecast can be for an entire continent, a country, region, or a specific community. It is important to note that the closer a weather forecast is in time to the weather it predicts, the more accurate it is likely to be. Weather forecasts from various meteorological agencies often use the term “probability.” Probability refers to the likelihood that something will happen. Thus, weather forecasts predict probable events rather than telling listeners exactly what is sure to happen.

Example of a daily forecast:

  • The rainfall forecast for mid-November (11th-20th) shows that wet conditions are expected to continue over the entire country. However, much wetter conditions are expected around the Lake Victoria basin, the southwestern and western parts of the country, parts of West Nile, and Mt. The northeastern part of the country is likely to experience moderate rainfall.

Example of a seasonal forecast:

  • At the peak of the September to November season, there is a high probability of a few heavy rain events accompanied by strong winds and lightning, which could lead to localized floods. It is recommended that people take precautionary measures to mitigate risk to people, animals, crops, and property. There is also a high probability of shorter to normal dry spells at the beginning of the season and relatively long dry spells towards the end of the season. The minor rainy season will be shorter than usual this year.


Types of weather forecast:

  • Daily forecasts: These provide weather predictions for a specific day, typically covering a 24-hour period, including morning, afternoon, and evening. They are helpful for planning daily activities.
  • Weekly forecasts: These offer weather predictions for a week, and provide a broader outlook, allowing people to plan the week ahead.
  • Marine forecasts: These predict the weather on inland waters and other water bodies. They include measures of visibility (how far one can see when on the water) and safety (the strength of winds and waves). Marine forecasts can be daily, weekly, or seasonal.
  • Aviation forecast: These predict upcoming weather conditions and other factors that can impact flights and air travel. Pilots are expected to check this forecast not less than three hours before departure.
  • Seasonal forecast: This provides weather predictions for an entire season, such as spring, summer, fall, or winter. In Africa, this would include the raining (major) and the dry (minor) seasons. Seasonal forecasts can be released annually or more frequently, for example, quarterly. They give a general idea of the expected weather trends and are useful for long-term planning for activities such as agriculture or travel.
  • Agro forecasts: Seasonal forecasts that predict the beginning and end of a raining or farming season. Agro forecasts include:
  • Cumulative rainfall distribution: The amount of rainfall expected over a given season. This may be expressed as above, close to, or below average for the season.
  • Onset: The beginning of the raining season.
  • Dry spells: Predicted periods when there will be a break in rainfall. This information is important to farmers to plan their crops, for example, to decide to plant a drought-tolerant crop variety if longer dry spells are predicted in a particular season.
  • Cessation: The end of the raining season.
  • Hydro forecasts: A seasonal forecast that predicts the probability of rains or drought. If the forecast predicts more rains, then there may be floods and water bodies will be full, while if the forecast predicts less rain, water bodies will have little or no water.

2. Convert daily weather information into different radio formats.

The information shared in weather forecasts can be used to generate content in different radio formats, including radio spots in the form of Public Service Announcements (PSAs) or short dramas. When you include weather information in these formats, you should simplify technical language so that ordinary listeners can understand.

Radio spots are short radio pieces (usually 15-60 seconds) that clearly deliver a single message. Weather information in forecasts can be converted into spots for easy understanding by local audiences, and these may be aired during radio news segments, during weather updates, and throughout the regular programming schedule.

Here is an example of how weather information can be used in a daily weather update.

NARRATOR:  And now, it's time for your daily weather update! The Meteorological Agency says there’s a 40 per cent probability of rains across northern parts of the country.

The forecast also predicts a high chance of thunderstorms rolling in throughout the afternoon and evening. So, grab your raincoats and umbrellas before you head out!

Keep an eye on the skies and stay safe indoors if you can. Remember, during thunderstorms, it's important to avoid open areas, tall objects, and seek shelter away from trees. Safety first!

Stay tuned to our station for the latest weather updates throughout the day.

Here’s an example of how weather information can be converted into a dramatic radio spot.

Narrator:  Welcome to another episode of "Know your weather." Today, we dive into the art of understanding probabilities in weather forecasts, and how they can help you plan your day.

Scene: Village square (Background SOUNDS of market women selling their produce)

Character 1:  (Excitedly) Hey, have you heard the weather forecast for today?

Character 2:  Not yet! What's in store for us?

Character 1:  Well, the forecaster said there's a 40% chance of rain this afternoon.

Character 2:   Oh, so does that mean it'll rain for 40% of the time?

Character 1: Not quite! Let me explain. The percentage represents the likelihood of rain It doesn't mean it will rain for 40% of the time or that 40% of the area will get wet. It means that, wherever you are in our area, there is a 40% chance that it will rain.

3. Use language that listeners can understand and information that listeners can use.

  • Translate weather terms into the local language to ensure easy understanding, using commonly understood words and phrases. For example, instead of saying “thunderstorm rain,” you can say, “We are expecting heavy rains accompanied by thunder, lighting, and severe storms.”
  • Temperature conversion: Convert temperatures into the format most familiar to listeners. If your audience is accustomed to Celsius, provide temperatures in Celsius. If they use Fahrenheit, convert accordingly.
    • To convert Celsius to Fahrenheit, multiply the Celsius temperature by 9/5 (or 1.8) and add 32.
    • To convert Fahrenheit to Celsius, subtract 32 from the Fahrenheit temperature and then multiply by 5/9.
  • Timeframe: State clearly the timeframe for the weather forecast. Is it for the current day, the next few days, or another period? Specify if it’s for the morning, afternoon, evening, night—or even for a whole season. This goes a long way towards preventing people from misunderstanding the forecast. And remember that the weather can change anytime, something to remind your listeners about.
  • Impact and precautions: Some weather updates include an impact-based forecast. In impact-based forecasts, as you share the weather information with your listeners, you also explain how the weather conditions may affect them and inform them of appropriate precautions to take. For example, if it's extremely hot, advise them to stay hydrated and avoid exposure to the sun. If floods are expected, advise them to stay safe by, for example, moving to higher ground. If it is going to rain, advise farmers to reschedule fertilizer or pesticide applications and drying or storage.

4. Use plain language to communicate technical terms related to weather

Use clear and concise language to convey weather conditions. Avoid technical jargon and explain complex terms when necessary. Here are some technical terms that can be broken down to help listeners better understand.

  • Sunny interval: Sunny conditions alternating with patches of clouds.
  • Variably cloudy: Considerable changes in cloud cover throughout the day, both from time to time and/or from place to place.
  • Slightly hazy: The air is slightly polluted or contains a thin layer of suspended particles, which can reduce visibility and create a haze.
  • Thunderstorms/rain: A storm accompanied by heavy rain, strong winds, lightning, and thunder.
  • Scattered rain: The adjective “scattered” means that rain is expected to cover about 25% to 50% of a particular area. It also suggests an uneven geographical distribution of rainfall.
  • Widespread rain: Suggests that rainfall in an area will be fairly evenly distributed.
  • Isolated rain/storm: When less than 25% of an area is covered by rain or storms.
  • Breaks: Periods when cloud cover temporarily clears, allowing sunshine to break through.

To help communicate in plain language, it’s helpful to understand some basic terms in a typical weather forecast, for example:

  • Humidity: The amount of moisture present in the air. Understanding humidity levels is important for comfort and health, as high humidity can make temperatures feel hotter and affect breathing for some individuals.
  • Cloud cover: The extent to which the sky is covered by clouds, expressed as a percentage. This information helps to anticipate lighting conditions and changes in weather patterns throughout the day.
  • Cloud height: The vertical distance from the ground to the base of the clouds, measured in feet or metres. Cloud height can impact aviation and outdoor activities, as low cloud cover can restrict visibility and affect the safety of certain activities.
  • Visibility: How far one can see in the atmosphere at ground level or at sea, usually reported in metres or miles. Knowing visibility is crucial for travel and outdoor activities, as limited visibility can impact driving and navigation, creating hazardous conditions.

5. Provide practical weather information and weather advisories for different groups of listeners.

Radio presenters should consider sharing specific weather updates for the following groups. By addressing the concerns and needs of each audience, a presenter can provide practical and valuable information that helps them make decisions and stay safe.

  • Farmers: Highlight precipitation forecasts, including rainfall amounts and timing. Provide information on soil moisture levels, crop-specific advice, and potential pest or disease risks. Mention agricultural practices that are recommended for the predicted weather conditions. By informing farmers about recent, mid-term, or longer weather trends, and whether expected weather will align with or vary from those trends, weather forecasts can help farmers make decisions such as which crops and varieties to plant, how to manage irrigation, when to plant and harvest, and how to market. Thus, broadcasters should complement weather information with agronomic advisories. Agronomic advisories could, for example, alert farmers to undertake or suspend fertilizer applications, depending on the forecast; to prepare their land in anticipation of the rain; what crops to grow if seasonal rainfall is expected to be more than usual; what crops to grow if forecasts call for less rain than usual or prolonged drought; and tips on irrigation and conserving water. Broadcasters should speak to agronomists and extension officers to receive the information that they share in agronomic advisories.
  • Marine and fisherfolk: Emphasize marine weather conditions such as wind direction, wave activity, and sea surface temperature. Inform listeners of storm warnings, rough seas, or potential dangers for fishing activities at a particular point in time.
  • Contractors and engineers: Provide information on weather conditions that may impact construction sites, such as heavy rain, high winds, or extreme temperatures. Provide alerts related to adverse weather, including potential delays, safety concerns, or work modifications.
  • Drivers and general public: Highlight visibility, road conditions, and weather-related hazards for driving. Mention potential traffic disruptions such as road closures due to weather events like heavy flooding, fog, or snowfall.

6. Plan segments on the seasonal weather forecast.

Seasonal forecasts are important for various sectors, especially the agricultural sector. They also help the general public prepare for extreme weather.

To create and broadcast seasonal weather forecasts, follow these steps:

  1. Research: Gather information on the seasonal weather forecasts for your region. This can include temperature trends, precipitation patterns, and other relevant weather conditions. You will need to engage with your country’s or region’s meteorological agency in your research.
  2. Identify themes: Based on the forecast weather patterns, identify themes for your radio broadcast. For example, if it's going to be particularly hot, you can plan segments on how to stay cool and hydrated if you are outside for a long time, and about how to care for particular crops during unusually hot weather.
  3. Select guests: Invite weather experts who can speak to the weather conditions that you are planning a program on. It’s critical to integrate forecast weather information with other types of information to help listeners make decisions about what needs to be done, by whom, and when. For instance, if an extended rainy season is predicted, you can invite a farming expert to discuss tips for dealing with excess moisture in particular crops.
  4. Prepare content: Prepare content that aligns with the forecast weather conditions. This can include discussions, interviews, listener call-ins, or even outdoor reports to provide real-time updates.
  1. Broadcast information about risk management. Plan a segment that prepares listeners to take early action before adverse weather events such as floods or droughts occur. For example, people living near riverbanks or near the coast may be more exposed to floods or storm surges, respectively. Plan tailored programs that provide these highly exposed and vulnerable communities with specific information on how they can take actions to stay safe and minimize damage.

7. Emergency weather alerts

Here's how to cover weather emergencies as a radio broadcaster:

  1. Rapid updates: Provide real-time updates on developing weather emergencies, including their location, intensity, and any warnings or precautions issued by authorities.
  2. Safety measures: Share information on safety measures that listeners should take during the emergency. This can include evacuation procedures, shelter locations, emergency contact numbers, and tips for staying safe.
  3. Expert interviews: Interview local meteorologists or emergency management officials to provide expert insights and guidance during weather emergencies.
  4. Call-ins and listener engagement: Encourage listeners to call in and share their experiences, ask questions, or seek assistance during weather emergencies. This can help create a sense of community and provide valuable information.
  5. A reporter can be located in a critical but safe area and give an update on what’s happening where they are and what is predicted.

Note: To ensure the safety and well-being of your listeners, remember to ensure that the information you share is accurate, reliable, and clear when reporting on weather emergencies.

Examples of advisories during weather emergencies include:

  • Since the forecast predicts heavy rain with high turbulence in the southern sector of the country, all households near water bodies should find alternative shelter as soon as possible. This is to ensure that everyone is safe in case the rains cause heavy floods.
  • Urban authorities should clear clogged water pathways and open drainage channels to avoid damage to roads from turbulent water overflows and flooded transport routes.

Other things to consider in emergency situations:

  • A meteorological agency might issue an emergency weather alert which states, for example, that the country is currently experiencing extreme air pollution, and that this could lead to reduced lung functioning, respiratory infections, inflammation, and a reduced level of antioxidants in the body. The alert might suggest that everyone wear a nose mask, drink plenty of water, cover food and water to prevent dust from settling on it, wash food well before eating, and stay indoors as much as possible. The alert might conclude by predicting that the poor atmospheric conditions could continue for up to two weeks, and encourage everyone to take actions to keep themselves and their families safe.
  • Here are four ways a rural radio presenter could use the information in this emergency alert:
    • Educate listeners by explaining the effects of extreme air pollution on health and sharing tips on how to mitigate the impact.
    • Provide localized advice to suit the communities you are broadcasting to. Such as local remedies that can help mitigate the effects of air pollution.
    • Throughout the broadcast, reassure listeners that taking specific actions to stay safe can significantly reduce or prevent risks.
    • Present the information in a calm and informative manner to help the community understand the situation and take appropriate measures without causing undue fear or panic.
  • Here’s the text of an actual emergency weather alert from Ghana:
    • Good morning, everyone. The information from EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), GMA/GMet (Ghana Meteorological Agency) and GHS (Ghana Health Service) is that the current change in weather/atmosphere across the country is not harmattan, but rather an extreme form of air pollution with dire consequences on human health. This can be hazardous and lead to: 1. Reduced lung function. 2. Respiratory infection 3. Inflammation 4. Oxidative stress (low level of antioxidants which creates an imbalance in your body), etc. Consequently, everyone is being advised to: Mask-up (wear nose mask). Stay hydrated (Drink more water). Cover food and water very well to prevent dust from settling on them. Wash fruits very well before eating them. And stay indoors as much as possible. This condition may prevail for a considerable period. Therefore, let’s take note and adhere and keep our families and friends informed. Thank you.

8. Understand percentages and probabilities

  • The “probability of precipitation” is one of the least understood elements of a weather forecast. Probability information is increasingly common in weather forecasts, but forecasters have relatively little guidance on the most effective way to communicate this information to the public.
  • Develop an understanding of the percentages and probabilities associated with weather forecasts. For instance, if there's a 60% chance of rain, you can inform your audience about this likelihood as well as the potential impact of the rain. If there is a 20% probability or chance of rain, you can inform your audience the chances are low and it will not likely rain.

Forecasts of the probability of precipitation include the following features:

  • The likelihood of occurrence of precipitation is stated as a percentage, for example, 10% 50%, or 100%.
  • An estimate of the predicted precipitation, usually in millimetres (mm), or the water equivalent of frozen precipitation, for example, 10-20 mm, or 40-50 mm.
  • The probability is for a specified time period (for example, today, this afternoon, tonight, Thursday).
  • The probability of precipitation forecast is for a specific area.

A forecast that mentions a 40% probability of rain, for example, does not mean (1) that 40% of the forecast area will receive precipitation at a given time or (2) that there will be precipitation 40% of the time in the forecast area during the forecast time period.

Instead, a 40% chance of rain this afternoon means that there is a 40% chance of rain at any point in the forecast area from noon to 6 p.m. local time.

9. Collaborate with weather experts.

Although seasonal, daily, and other types of forecasts issued by meteorological agencies can be valuable, the impacts and severity of weather disasters may still be unclear. To understand not only what the weather will be but what it will do, it’s essential to engage with experts such as climate and risk data scientists, communities at risk, disaster risk managers, and experts on water, health, food security, infrastructure, and other critical issues.

Radio stations should create a contact list of resource persons, including experts from the meteorological agency, department of agriculture, and agencies in charge of emergency response.

National meteorological (or “met”) services are typically responsible for providing weather and climate information and services. Their roles and capabilities vary between countries because of differences in funding, internal capacity, and ability to support new initiatives.

Where possible, do online research to find background information on met services, including weather forecasts, in your country. This will enable you to ask weather experts well-informed questions that help you broadcast weather information that listeners will understand, appreciate, and find useful.

When you communicate with met agency staff, be sure to talk about how the forecast weather departs or aligns with recent, mid-term, or long-term trends related to temperature, precipitation, and other variables.

Be prepared for jargon. You will be communicating with trained scientists and experts, but they are not always experts in communicating science. Don’t hesitate to ask them to define any unfamiliar terms, and to avoid technical jargon as much as possible.

Register for trainings offered by your local met agency. Meteorological agencies provide trainings that radio broadcasters can attend and learn how to offer more accurate and useful weather information to listeners. Met agencies may also have a WhatsApp or other social media platforms where they share timely and accurate information.


Contributed by: Linda Dede Nyanya Godji Incoom, freelance journalist, Accra, Ghana.

Reviewed by: Reginald Ofori Kyere, Communications Officer, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, Faustina Obeng Adomaa, Consultant for Inclusive Climate Information Services and CSA Scaling, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, Ghana, and Grégoire Baki,  agrometeorological engineer, Meteorological applications department at the National Meteorology Agency (ANAM), Burkina Faso.


Francisca Martey, Deputy Director of Research and Applied Meteorology, Ghana Meteorology Agency, GMet. Oct. 24, 2023 and Nov. 2, 2023.

Jeremiah Luzika Lazia, Principal Meteorologist and head of the Climatology Unit, Ghana Meteorology Agency, GMet. Nov. 2, 2023.

Deborah Acheampong, Meteorologist, Ghana Meteorology Agency, GMet. Oct. 24, 2023.


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  4. SHEAR (Science for Humanitarian Emergencies & Resilience), 2019. A Practical Guide to Seasonal Forecasts.