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Topic: Food and Climate. Advanced.
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Use of climate information for drought management and early warning systems

The response to drought is rapid in most areas of the world.  So far, however, these responses have focused on emergency measures designed to minimise the impact of drought once it has occurred rather than anticipating and solving the problems before they actually happen.  

In general, these emergency efforts have not been used subsequently to provide the knowledge needed to deal with similar situations in the future.  Information from climate forecasts and/or development of plausible scenarios have not yet been incorporated into any specific drought action plans.

 Use of climate information

Water management in the Mediterranean is primarily aimed at minimising the risks of water shortage on agricultural production.    Most of the risks are associated with the unpredictability of future weather patterns. The impacts vary between users and regions in the Mediterranean.

There has been remarkable progress in the field of climate science and climate prediction over the last few decades. We now need to include this information into development planning and implementation processes. This requires an understanding of how climate variability affects Societies in different countries, regions and communities.

1. Drought prediction in Africa. 
Source: NOAA.

To enable more effective drought adaptation measures to be developed, we need better communication between scientists and stakeholders regarding climate, water use, food production and social responses and interactions in the region.

This map shows the prediction of a drought in Morocco and other parts of Africa made by the Climate Prediction Center at NOAA.  The prediction was made six months in advance and was correct.  This shows how climate information can be used to prepare for, and minimise the negative impacts of extreme weather events. 

Drought early warning systems

Countries are generally unprepared to cope effectively with drought.  Local and National policymakers typically react to a drought event through “crisis management” rather than through the formulation and implementation of anticipatory measures commonly referred to as “risk management”. A typical reason mentioned by decision makers for the lack of such risk management policies has been the lack of means to predict climate conditions with sufficient skill and lead-time.

Major advances in our understanding of the Mediterranean climate have been made in recent years. Atmospheric scientists can now predict some of the medium-term features (one or two seasons ahead) of our climate reasonably well. This allows forecast information to be incorporated into water management strategies, especially those related to irrigation. The regional studies focus on optimising traditional production systems as these dominate agricultural production in the Mediterranean, but the research also has benefits for large-scale commercial systems.

The adoption of mechanisms to effectively communicate climate information will allow regional planners to reduce the devastating effects of drought and the uncertain effects of climate and weather. Integrated climate monitoring (incorporating information about climate, soil, water supply and potential crop yields) is an important element of adaptation strategies. Information should be in the public domain so that the level of risk can be assessed and informed decisions about the future can be made.

About this page:
author: Marta Moneo and Dr. Ana Iglesias - Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, España
1. scientific reviewer: Alex de Sherbinin - CIESIN, Columbia University, USA
2. scientific reviewer: Lily Parshall - Goddard Institute for Space Studies, Columbia University, USA
educational reviewer: Emilio Sternfeld - Colegio Virgen de Mirasierra, España
last published: 2004-05-12

Last modified: Friday, 17 May 2019, 2:09 PM