Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

With climate and vegetation data, UCSB geographers closer to predicting droughts in Africa

02.05.2012
What might happen if droughts were predicted months ahead of time?

Food aid and other humanitarian efforts could be put together sooner and executed better, say UC Santa Barbara geographers Chris Funk, Greg Husak, and Joel Michaelsen. After over a decade of gathering and analyzing climate and vegetation data from East Africa, the researchers, who are part of the U.S. Agency for International Development's Famine Early Warning System Network (FEWS NET), say there is enough evidence to associate climate conditions in the region with projected rainfall deficits that could lead to food shortages.

"We've been looking at climate in East Africa and trying to relate that back to patterns in sea surface temperatures, rainfall, and winds over the Indian and Pacific oceans," said Funk, who analyzes and predicts large-scale climate anomalies in Africa. Results show that over the last 14 years, the number of droughts has doubled in East Africa. Roughly half of the last 14 years have been drought years.

"We've been worried about these trends for a long time," said Michaelsen, who studies the patterns of vegetation greening and browning in the area. "This year marks a bit of a watershed because we're starting to understand more the specific structure of these droughts, which is what underlay our early warning projections this year."

Through the climate data, coupled with satellite data that has recorded the patterns of vegetation greening and browning over the last decade, the researchers have detected a pattern that points to the likelihood of water shortages months ahead of time –– a pattern the U.S. government is taking seriously. A recent alert from the government-run USAID agency has taken into account FEWS NET's projection of the likelihood of low rainfall this March-May rainy season in East Africa, as USAID prepares its outreach efforts.

"It's already a billion-dollar problem that they're thinking needs $50 million more; they're already anticipating a 5 percent increase in the need for aid," said Husak, who specializes in analyzing remote sensing data and rainfall. The area, which includes chronically food-insecure countries like Ethiopia and Somalia, is still recovering from last year's famine.

The U.S. government spends more than a billion dollars in food aid every year. FEWS NET was created after the 1984-1985 Ethiopian famine, an event that killed over a million people before sufficient food aid could be airlifted into the country. FEWS NET has since become a leader in integrating monitoring, forecasting, and climate trends analysis.

Famine, say the researchers, is the result of more than severe climate: Conflict, political unrest, corruption, and other human factors are also major contributors to the crisis. Additionally, relief is not just a matter of putting food on a boat and distributing it among the locals. If food aid is sent to a place that doesn't need it, the surplus could distort the local market by devaluing the prices of local products. Conversely, not providing food aid quickly enough distorts the market in the other direction, limiting access to available resources.

"Prices of food have gone up," said Michaelsen. "It's not the brownness (of the vegetation) that causes food insecurity; it's the price of food." The challenge, say the geographers, will be for aid agencies to determine where their finite resources will go.

In the long term, and with more information, Michaelsen, Husak, and Funk, along with the extensive network of colleagues in FEWS NET, hope to gain a better understanding of the effects the changing climate will have on the abilities of a region –– and the agencies that support it –– to prevent future crises.

"There are going to be a lot of surprises, and how agile we are at responding to those surprises is going to make a big difference," said Michaelsen.

Sonia Fernandez | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.ucsb.edu

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Early organic carbon got deep burial in mantle
25.04.2017 | Rice University

nachricht New atlas provides highest-resolution imagery of the Polar Regions seafloor
25.04.2017 | British Antarctic Survey

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

NASA's Fermi catches gamma-ray flashes from tropical storms

25.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Researchers invent process to make sustainable rubber, plastics

25.04.2017 | Materials Sciences

Transfecting cells gently – the LZH presents a GNOME prototype at the Labvolution 2017

25.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>