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.
Latest from the IRI:
Earlier this month, U.S. President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced a new era of collaboration on agricultural research in the face of climate change. In fact, efforts have been underway since 2009: the Earth Institute’s International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI) has been working for the past two years with India’s Ministry of Agriculture and other institutions to improve forecasts of the seasonal monsoon rains that water much of the nation’s farms, and to help farmers manage drought.
“Cooperation between Indian and American researchers and scientists sparked the Green Revolution,” said Obama during a Nov. 8 joint session of India’s Parliament in New Delhi. “Now, as farmers and rural areas face the effects of climate change and drought, we’ll work together to spark a second, more sustainable Evergreen Revolution.” He and Singh later issued a joint pledge to pursue initiatives on clean energy, health and jobs, as well as agriculture and climate.
Shiv Someshwar, director of the IRI’s Asia and Pacific regional program, said that the two leaders “sent a clear signal that scientific and technological advancements in managing weather and climate risks are critical for making rural communities more resilient. The dual emphasis on better climate prediction and its uptake by farmers and policy makers is exactly right. The IRI’s work with Indian partners over the past two years has been built on this very premise.”
More than 60 percent of farmland in India lacks irrigation, and thus depends on monsoonal rains, which come roughly from late May to early October. A failed monsoon often means complete loss of a crop, and even below-average rainfall often results in increased food prices and hurts economic growth. The government spends massive sums on drought relief–according to the agriculture ministry, about $5 billion during the last major drought, in 2002. A lesser, but still damaging, drought took place in 2009.
These costs have sparked interest in identifying ways to plan ahead, particularly as concern grows over the potential for climate change to affect monsoon cycles. IRI’s effort is funded by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and India’s Ministry of Agriculture, which together plan to issue detailed forecasts to farmers starting in the 2011 rainy monsoon season. The IRI project, known as the Extended Range Forecast System for Climate Risk Management in Agriculture, is aimed not only improving the forecasts, but helping farmers and policy makers prepare early for adverse conditions. In addition to conducting field-based research, IRI has co-hosted training events in India and sponsored Indian scientists for research visits to the United States to improve their forecasting and risk-management abilities. Partners include the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi; India Meteorological Department; National Center for Medium-Range Forecasting; Indian Council of Agricultural Research, and a number of state agricultural universities. For full details, visit the project home page or download this flyer.
Below are Obama’s remarks about agriculture. (The entire transcript of his speech is here):
Together, we can strengthen agriculture. Cooperation between Indian and American researchers and scientists sparked the Green Revolution. Today, India is a leader in using technology to empower farmers, like those I met yesterday who get free updates on market and weather conditions on their cell phones. And the United States is a leader in agricultural productivity and research. Now, as farmers and rural areas face the effects of climate change and drought, we’ll work together to spark a second, more sustainable Evergreen Revolution
Together, we’re improving Indian weather forecasting systems before the next monsoon season. We aim to help millions of Indian farmers — farming households save water and increase productivity, improve food processing so crops don’t spoil on the way to market, and enhance climate and crop forecasting to avoid losses that cripple communities and drive up food prices.
And as part of our food security initiative, we’re going to share India’s expertise with farmers in Africa. And this is an indication of India’s rise — that we can now export hard-earned expertise to countries that see India as a model for agricultural development. It’s another powerful example of how American and Indian partnership can address an urgent global challenge.
Filed under IRI related | Comment (0)
A colleague has written a nice story about a new project at the International Research Institute for Climate and Society that aims to improve forecasting of the Indian monsoon…
In May and June each year, speculation about the coming of the monsoon fills newspapers and conversations across India. Urban dwellers eagerly await respite from overbearing heat. Investors scrutinize forecasts, trying to anticipate possible impacts on food prices. But none have more at stake than India’s over 100 million farming households.
In India, where more than 60% of agricultural land is rainfed and the average farm size is only 3.5 acres, a failed monsoon often means complete loss of a crop. Recent increases in suicides among heavily indebted farmers have highlighted the extreme desperation in some areas. A lackluster monsoon can seriously impact food prices and India’s overall economic growth. For example, this year’s poor monsoon has led to increases in sugar, legume, and potato prices, and many estimate that India’s gross domestic product growth rate may drop by a full percentage point. The government also spends massive sums on drought relief. According to the agriculture ministry, relief expenses totaled about $5 billion during the last major drought in 2002.
The magnitude of these human and economic costs – particularly as concern grows over the potential for climate change to increase extreme weather patterns – has sparked interest in finding more ways to plan ahead. The International Research Institute for Climate and Society at Columbia University is partnering with Indian government agencies and universities in an innovative new research effort led by the government of India designed to improve monsoon forecasts and develop strategies that help farmers and policy makers prepare and act early, based on information tailored to their needs.
Read the rest here.
Photo: Sheshagiri Rao/IRI
My first attempt at live-blogging. I hope to do this once a month. The International Research Institute for Climate and Society has its climate briefings on the third Wednesday of each month. The forecasts presented at the briefing are made available on the net assessment page usually by the following Thursday morning.
Bear with me folks, I’m sure my speed writing will improve in time! Here goes…
Michael Bell starts with an overview for January…
- By Jan 2008 we saw a moderate La Niña event compared to past events.
- Negative SST anomalies in the west and central Pacific have strengthened but weakened in the eastern Pacific.
- Surface air temperature-in January very strong cold anomaly in central and southwest Asia. Some of these are in the lowest 10% of the climatological distribution for the regions. For example, the publicized cold snap in Afghanistan has resulted in 882 deaths and 130,000 livestock deaths as of Feb 14th. Also a rise in acute respiratory infections. We also see a pretty strong warm anomaly over eastern Canada, extending into northeast U.S.
- Precipitation anomalies- In indian Ocean we now see a strong negative anomaly whereas in December it was positive.
- On to precipitation teleconnections. How does it compare to patterns we normally associate with La Niña? In South America, we see below normal precipitation anomalies. Above normal in southern Africa, a hint of below normal in East Africa. Australia we see above normal precipitation in the east, drier in the west. In North America, we see dry conditions in southeastern U.S. We don’t see much going on in northern South America, where there’s usually a strong wet signal.
(He shows a cool animated graphic of outgoing longwave radiation.)
Now Tony with the forecasts…his title is “Moderate-Strong La Niña continue”
- Monthly average is -1.8 for Nino 3.4, which is strong according to NOAA’s definition.
- Last three months we see La Niña expanding to the west quite strongly. Very canonical looking pattern.
- This La Niña is on par strength-wise with those of the late 1990s and early 2000s, but not as strong as the 1988-89 one.
- Instead of seeing enhanced trade winds, we see winds radiating outward from the cold anomalies.
- There’s also a slug of deeper warmer water coming in from the west. Could this mean the end of La Niña? Not sure, because we also see a reinforcement of the cold anomalies in the east.
- Shuhua shows us that most of the modes showing strong-to-moderate La Niña for next few seasons.
- The probabilistic forecast for February shows a 95% chance for La Niña for the February-March-April season and by the middle of the year (June-July-August), we’re looking at a 45% chance for La Niña, 45% for neutral and a 10% chance for an El Nino.
- We see a typical La Niña signature in the seasonal climate forecast: dry in southeast Asia, slightly wet in northeastern Brazil, dry in southern U.S., dry in northeast Africa and west Asia.
- For precipitation forecasts, we start to see an above normal Sahel precipitation pattern for JJA season. So we see somewhat of a La Niña condition climate persisting into the next ENSO cycle.
- We also see a strong above-normal signal for temperatures in the southwestern U.S. that extends into the summer months.
Filed under IRI related | Comment (0)