Ethiopia’s National Meteorology Agency has launched a new online climate service based on 30 years of rainfall and temperature data for the entire country, which can be accessed at the click of a button. This is unprecedented in terms of scale and accessibility anywhere in Africa. In the latest issue of the WMO Bulletin, IRI scientists who worked on the project say that the Ethiopian experience is a template for providing customizable data for agriculture, water, health and other sectors across the continent.
“It used to be that in order to get data for a given place, you’d have to submit a written request to the NMA and then pay according to how much you needed. The process would take at least three days,” says IRI’s Tufa Dinku, who used to work at the agency. “Now it takes three seconds.”
The project was funded by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and in large part by Google.org, the philanthropic arm of the technology company, which has been interested in improving the prediction and prevention of infectious-disease outbreaks in East Africa.
Get more details at on the IRI web site.
Photo: Michael Norton/IRI.
Sorry for the lack of updates on this site. I’ve been keeping busy with a number of personal and work projects. Here’s a series of brief video interviews I conducted on the Horn of Africa drought that’s still ongoing. The challenge, as always, in producing multimedia for a small institution, is to turn it around quickly so that it remains timely without sacrificing content. We hatched up these interviews very early on last summer, when it was evident that a massive humanitarian disaster was brewing in the Horn. The first interview took about 6 hours to produce, from the film to the production and uploading. The last one, embedded here, took me only about 2.5 hours. Not bad!
The entire series is here: http://vimeo.com/album/1662641Filed under IRI related | Comment (0)
Forecasts can play an invaluable role when used properly in helping humanitarian agencies and governments plan for and prevent disasters, according to the latest Climate and Society publication launched by the IRI and the American Red Cross last week in Washington D.C.
Climate and weather disasters, from the massive floods in Pakistan, Australia and Colombia, to the devastating drought in Niger, have claimed thousands of lives and caused billions of dollars in damages in the last year. According to statistics from the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters, these types of disasters have risen significantly in the last few decades. Scientists expect changes in climate will make extreme events more frequent and intense in the future.
Governments and humanitarian organizations, such as the United Nations’ Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) are placing greater emphasis on trying to prevent and minimize the impact of disasters by making earlier and better informed decisions ahead of time. The new report, called A Better Climate for Disaster Risk Management, is the latest in the IRI’s Climate and Society series. The IRI published the report in partnership with OCHA, IFRC, WFP, the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
“This is an important report that shows how scientists and practictioners can come together to describe a better recipe for meeting enormous global problems related to climate and the growth of natural disasters,” said Jan Egeland during the launch event. Egeland is the Executive Director of the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs, and co-chair of the High-Level Taskforce for the Global Framework for Climate Services. He is also on the IRI’s Board of the Directors. “In my view, far too little is being invested in disaster risk reduction and far too little in climate services,” he said. Watch interviews of Jan Egeland and Madeleen Helmer, who is the Director of Policies and Communication at the Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre.
Read the full news here: http://bit.ly/kr9ALlFiled under IRI related | Comment (0)
The páramo is a high mountain ecosystem in South America’s Andes rich with biodiversity and an important source of water for millions of people. It’s at risk of becoming drier because of changing climate conditions. IRI’s latest slideshow documents the efforts of Daniel Ruiz Carrascal and an international team of researchers who have been measuring how the environment of the páramo is changing over time.
I had a grand time working on this because it involved some of my favorite people. Daniel has a sick collection of photos and videos from his research sites- at last count, more than 5,000. For those of you out there who make audio slideshows, you’ll know this was a true treasure trove to play with. We knew from the beginning we wanted to have versions in English and Spanish. I decided to have Daniel narrate the Spanish version in the first person, and for the English one, we did it in the third person, conscripting Cathy V, the coordinator for IRI’s Latin America program, as debut narrator. The videos turned out as well as they did because of Jason’s skillful production and editing!
Check it out in English:
Or en español:
The full transcripts are here:
http://bit.ly/m4OCbGFiled under IRI related | Comment (0)
Scientists basically spend their time doing one of two things: collecting new data, or doing some new and clever analysis with existing data. Data is the lifeblood of research. In developed countries, we’ve grown accustomed to having access to long, detailed records on demographics, infectious diseases, rainfall and temperature. Researchers use this raw information to spot trends, for example, or to validate or refute hypotheses, to fine tune public health systems, to optimize crop yields. Much of these data are just a mouse click away, for anyone to access, for free.
Across much of Africa, it’s quite a different story. By most measures, Africa is the most “data poor” region in the world. Wars and revolutions, natural and manmade disasters, extreme poverty and unmaintained infrastructure, have left massive gaps in the data sets. Reliable records of temperature, rainfall and other climate variables are scarce, and this is not an inconsequential matter.
Without data, policy makers can’t make smart, well-informed decisions on water management, health, and development in general.
And yet it would be unfair to say that all of Africa is data poor. Some countries have records that are quite long, detailed and reliable–oases of measurements, blooming in an otherwise numberless desert. Unlike in the U.S., however, data sets compiled by most African national meteorological agencies are considered proprietary. Anyone who wants to use it must pay–even scientists, who have neither the funds nor the inclination to do so. So the result is the same: valuable research that could help save lives and improve well being, goes undone.
Researchers have long called for freeing up of this locked data, among them, a group at IRI. In a newly published commentary in Nature, Madeleine Thomson and other IRIers argue that climate data is a “resource for development” and “a classic public good” that increases in value the more times it is used.
Good climate information, if freely available, could transform the way in which the health community does business. For example, it could improve health calendars for seasonal diseases. It could lead to better timing of the distribution of bed nets, local public awareness campaigns, and drugs with a short shelf life…It would also enable better mapping of regions and populations vulnerable to emerging health problems such as meningococcal meningitis epidemics, which favour the hot, dry and dusty Sahel, a region that may be expanding due to climate and environmental change.
Image taken from the IRI Data Library.Filed under IRI related | Comment (0)
Climate and public-health communities are learning to speak each other’s language to improve decision making. Learn more: Watch a short video that the IRI communications crew put together. We used a Nikon D90 and Panasonic LX-3 for photos and some of the videos. We made the interviews with our trusty Canon Vixia.Filed under IRI related | Comment (0)