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 Supercomputing helps researchers understand Earth's interior
23.05.2017 | University of Illinois College of Liberal Arts & Sciences

nachricht How is climate change affecting fauna in the Arctic?
22.05.2017 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Turmoil in sluggish electrons’ existence

An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.

We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...

Im Focus: Wafer-thin Magnetic Materials Developed for Future Quantum Technologies

Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...

Im Focus: World's thinnest hologram paves path to new 3-D world

Nano-hologram paves way for integration of 3-D holography into everyday electronics

An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...

Im Focus: Using graphene to create quantum bits

In the race to produce a quantum computer, a number of projects are seeking a way to create quantum bits -- or qubits -- that are stable, meaning they are not much affected by changes in their environment. This normally needs highly nonlinear non-dissipative elements capable of functioning at very low temperatures.

In pursuit of this goal, researchers at EPFL's Laboratory of Photonics and Quantum Measurements LPQM (STI/SB), have investigated a nonlinear graphene-based...

Im Focus: Bacteria harness the lotus effect to protect themselves

Biofilms: Researchers find the causes of water-repelling properties

Dental plaque and the viscous brown slime in drainpipes are two familiar examples of bacterial biofilms. Removing such bacterial depositions from surfaces is...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

AWK Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium 2017: Internet of Production for Agile Enterprises

23.05.2017 | Event News

Dortmund MST Conference presents Individualized Healthcare Solutions with micro and nanotechnology

22.05.2017 | Event News

Innovation 4.0: Shaping a humane fourth industrial revolution

17.05.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Scientists propose synestia, a new type of planetary object

23.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Zap! Graphene is bad news for bacteria

23.05.2017 | Life Sciences

Medical gamma-ray camera is now palm-sized

23.05.2017 | Medical Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>