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 Fossil coral reefs show sea level rose in bursts during last warming
19.10.2017 | Rice University

nachricht NASA finds newly formed tropical storm lan over open waters
17.10.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Neutron star merger directly observed for the first time

University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event

On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...

Im Focus: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.

Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

Im Focus: Shrinking the proton again!

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.

It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

Climate Engineering Conference 2017 Opens in Berlin

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Electrode materials from the microwave oven

19.10.2017 | Materials Sciences

New material for digital memories of the future

19.10.2017 | Materials Sciences

Physics boosts artificial intelligence methods

19.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>