Topic: Disasters

Rising Temperatures Lead to Increased Fire Risk in Indonesia

A new paper published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, shows that rising temperatures have increased the risk of fires even during non-drought years in Indonesia, possibly making mild fire seasons in the country a thing of the past. The study was conducted by scientists at IRI, the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), Temple University and the Center for International […]

How Oceans Dried Out the Sahel

The original version of this post first appeared on the web site of the International Institute for Environment and Development. What caused the great Sahelian drought of the 1970s and 80s? For the past 10 or so years, state-of-the-art climate models have consistently shown how the shift from the anomalously wet conditions that characterised the […]

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Voices from CariCOF: Dry Season 2015-16

The Caribbean Climate Outlook Forum, also known as CariCOF, brings together climate scientists and meteorologists with decision-makers who may be able to use climate information. During the meeting, now held twice a year — once at the beginning of the dry season and once at the beginning of the wet season — the scientists present […]

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International Meeting: Connecting Health and Climate

Yesterday, Linda Fried, the dean of the Mailman School of Public Health, wrote about the crucial connection between climate and public health in a piece for the Huffington Post. Understanding and anticipating the ways in which climate change and variability can adversely affect human health, she wrote, requires a global commitment to share science and best practices […]

El Niño 2015 Conference Report

In November 2015, the International Research Institute for Climate and Society at Columbia University, in collaboration with the World Meteorological Organization, the U.S. Agency for International Development and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, convened the El Niño 2015 Conference. The report from this conference is now available. In addition to recordings and summaries of the […]

Extreme Tornado Outbreaks Have Become More Common

A new paper shows that the average number of tornadoes per outbreak has grown by more than 40% over the last half century. The likelihood of extreme outbreaks – those with many tornadoes – is also greater. Most death and destruction inflicted by tornadoes in North America occurs during outbreaks—large-scale weather events that can last one to […]

Rapid intensification’s key role in tropical cyclone risk

In studying climate and tropical cyclones, researchers find a weather phenomenon at play In October 2015, Hurricane Patricia became the strongest storm ever measured by the National Hurricane Center. But what really worried authorities was the speed at which Patricia amassed her strength. The storm’s sustained winds increased from 85 miles per hour to 200 […]

IRI@AMS 2016: Schedule of Events

From crowd-sourcing tornado data to teaching Harlem high-school students about climate change and climate justice, IRI scientists will be sharing a number of fascinating projects at the annual meeting of the American Meteorological Society (AMS) next week in New Orleans.  Below is a schedule of their presentations and posters. Presenting authors appear in bold. Crowd-Sourcing the Storm: A New […]

Climate Resilience (Animation)

Climate resilience: it’s the ability for communities to recover from the impacts of climate events. It’s the difference between weather being manageable…or a catastrophe. But for many parts of the world, where livelihoods depend so much on the climate, critical weather and climate information is unavailable or unusable. The International Research Institute for Climate and […]

Global Nutrition Report Highlights Role of Climate

Climate change is complicating global efforts to end malnutrition, and even small seasonal fluctuations make a difference says a new report.  According to the Global Nutrition Report released this week, there are actions leaders of every country should be taking to end malnutrition in all its forms. Among the report’s key findings: One in three members of […]

Minds on the Information Gap: Climate in the Caribbean

This post is an excerpt from a multimedia story published by IRI on Medium.com. View the full story and video series here. On the road from Hewanorra airport in southern St. Lucia to the capital in the north of the island, a bridge is missing, washed out during heavy rains on Christmas Eve, 2013. A sharp […]

NASA@IRI: Studying Climate Extremes from Space

By Alex Sweeney Peering into the satellite control rooms at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) last month was extremely exciting. As participants of the NASA DEVELOP National Program, we use satellite data every day in our research. Helen Cen and I had just finished our end-of-term presentations with other DEVELOP participants and were led […]

Innovative Weather Model Helps Caribbean Prepare for Drought

This story was originally published in FrontLines, a news publication of the U.S. Agency for International Development. When it comes to climate risks in the Caribbean, the bluster and rage of hurricanes and tropical storms steal the stage. These events flare up quickly, can cause enormous damage and loss of life, and dissipate within days. Drought is […]

Behind the Expected Quiet 2015 Hurricane Season

By Chia-Ying Lee, IRI Postdoctoral Research Scientist This post originally appeared in the Earth Institute’s State of the Planet Blog. It does not feel like summer in New York City as I write, but today (a cool, rainy June 1) is the official start day for the Atlantic hurricane season, which will last until November 30. What […]

One Size Fits None: Drought forecasting in the Caribbean

This post contains excerpts from the full version on our Medium account.  Most extreme climate and weather events involve an unwanted surplus — too much rain, too much wind or too much snow and ice. Drought is a little different: it’s the absence of something. It takes time for a drought to build, making it fundamentally different to monitor […]

Frequency of Tornadoes, Hail Linked to El Niño, La Niña

Study May Aid Seasonal Forecasting Climate scientists can spot El Niño and La Niña conditions developing months ahead of time, and they use this knowledge to make more accurate forecasts of droughts, flooding and even hurricane activity around the world. Now, a new study shows that El Niño and La Niña conditions can also help […]

Looking back: A year of forecasts, partnerships and climate information

by Manon Verchot In 2013, the International Research Institute for Climate and Society teamed up with the University of Arizona to help regions of the world that are most vulnerable to climate variability and change. Here’s a look at what has been accomplished so far. Farmers are at the mercy of the weather. They need […]

Fourth International Conference on Climate Services

The Climate Services Partnership is pleased to announce the fourth International Conference on Climate Services (ICCS 4), which will be held in Montevideo, Uruguay. The event starts this Wednesday, December 10 at 10:30 am UTC and runs through Friday, December 12, 2:30 pm UTC. ICCS 4 is being hosted by the Uruguayan Ministry of Agriculture, […]

Putting Climate Services Into Farmers’ Hands

As an ‘El Niño’ climate event heats up in the Pacific, the spotlight is on how we can prepare for the weather and climate shifts that may be in store. The El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is a kind of pendulum in the global climate system, swinging back and forth on a 2-7 year cycle, bringing drought to some areas […]

Eight Misconceptions About El Niño (and La Niña)

For years, people have been pointing to El Niño as the culprit behind floods, droughts, famines, economic failures, and record-breaking global heat. Can a single climate phenomenon really cause all these events? Is the world just a step away from disaster when El Niño conditions develop? What exactly is this important climate phenomenon and why […]

Study: El Niño’s Impacts on Water, Agriculture and Health

By Ben Orlove and Ángel Muñoz A new study examines the degree to which decision makers working in key sectors–agriculture, water and health–have been able to make successful use of forecasts of El Niño and La Niña. We find that these forecasts have indeed often been put into use, but only when two conditions have been […]

Live from Kingston: It’s CariCOF

By Elisabeth Gawthrop and Mea Halperin The Caribbean Climate Outlook Forum (CariCOF) took place yesterday in Kingston, Jamaica. It is one of a number of Climate Outlook Forums (COFs) around the world during which scientists present a forecast to decision makers who work in climate-sensitive sectors such as agriculture, water management, disaster planning and health. The forecast […]

Q&A – Why care about CariCOF?

Next week, the Caribbean Climate Outlook Forum (known as CariCOF) will kick off in Kingston, Jamaica. At this event, both providers and users of climate information from across the Caribbean will discuss the upcoming season’s forecast and the ways the forecast might be used to make decisions in water resources, tourism and disaster risk management. To learn […]

IRI and U. of Arizona Team Up for Climate

IRI and the University of Arizona address climate vulnerability in most at-risk areas of the world in new project The Caribbean, Asia’s Indo-Gangetic Plain and West Africa are three regions known to be extremely vulnerable to climate variability and change, particularly to droughts, extreme weather events and stresses on food production, water resources and coastal areas. A […]

Weather in Context: Weird Winter or Standard Season?

It’s nearly impossible to pinpoint a particular weather event as caused or made worse by climate change, but during any prolonged duration of exceptional weather, such questions always arise. We want to know if the weather we’re experiencing is actually unusual, if it’s part of larger climatic change and if it’s going to become more […]

Explainer: The Global Warming ‘Hiatus’

In the March issue of Nature Climate Change, IRI Director Lisa Goddard explains what may be behind the recent slowdown in global temperature growth in a piece titled “Heat Hide and Seek”. The Earth Institute’s Kim Martineau interviewed Goddard for some additional thoughts. We include the original Q&A here along with additional resources. Q: Is there a global warming […]

Climate prediction tools show role of oceans in Amazon drought and fire season

In the last decade, warmer sea surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic have corresponded with below-average precipitation in Peru and western Brazil. The relationship is due to the effect of sea surface temperatures on the location of the Inter-tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) – a band of clouds and rain stretching around the globe where trade winds […]

Maps Made For Disaster Management

On an ongoing basis, Rebecca McNaught, the Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre’s senior climate advisor for the Pacific region, looks up climate and weather forecasts for her corner of the world. To get this information, she uses an online Maproom developed by the IRI specifically for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. […]

Chasing Tornadoes: A Close Call with a Deadly Storm

By John Allen I’ve been chasing storms in the Great Plains of the United States since 2010, and before that in Australia since 2003. My interest in meteorology started from an encounter with a hailstorm in Sydney, Australia back in 1990, and since then I have had an avid interest in storms that has led […]

Managing Water in a Dry Land

The Elqui River basin in Chile’s Coquimbo region is one of the driest places on Earth. It receives only about 100 millimeters (4 inches) of rain each year, and most of it during one short rainy season. The rainfall isalso highly variable. In some years, the region will get close to zero rainfall, while in […]

Singing the Blues About Water Scarcity

A version of this post originally appeared on the Climate and Society Hot Topics blog. Otis Redding wraps up his acclaimed 1965 album Otis Blue with “You Don’t Miss Your Water.” The refrain “you don’t miss your water ’til your well runs dry” was originally written by William Bell and inspired by his feelings of homesickness for his native Memphis […]

Where’s My Seasonal Tornado Forecast?

The nation’s experts on tornadoes, derechos and other types of “severe convection” had a meeting of the minds earlier this month at Columbia’s Lamont campus to discuss ways of advancing our poor understanding about how the frequency and occurrence of these storms are related to climate variability and change. They also presented the latest efforts at predicting […]

Discussing Climate, Cities and Food

On October 29, the Earth Institute and the International Research Institute for Climate and Society were slated to hold a discussion on climate, food and cities. The event was canceled, though, as Sandy made landfall that night. In the wake of the storm, which left millions without power and washed away neighborhoods on the Jersey Shore, Staten Island and […]

A River Runs Through It: Predicting Floods in the Midwest

Three of North America’s major rivers run through the Midwestern U.S. In the spring of 2011, major flooding in region caused an estimated $3 billion in damages and killed seven people. Although scientists cannot predict exact precipitation amounts for a given season, they can attempt to predict the odds that a given season will have below average, […]

‘This is a wake-up call – don’t hit the snooze button’

“We have to stop thinking in terms of ‘100-year events.’ It’s not going to be another 100 years before we see another extreme storm such as Sandy.” – Art Lerner-Lam, deputy director, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory For years before Hurricane Sandy charged ashore on Monday, researchers from the Earth Institute knew what was coming. In a rapidly […]

Photo Essay: Into the Heart of Dryness

Niger is one of the poorest countries in the world. Life expectancy there is 54 years, and it has an infant mortality rate higher than any other country except Afghanistan. It is also a country that is extremely vulnerable to climate variability and change. The livelihoods of four out of five people in Niger depend […]

Climate Services: No need to wait for disasters to happen

This is the third of ten interviews with climate and development experts conducted at the International Conference on Climate Services, held at Columbia University in October 2011. Maarten Van Aalst is the Director of the Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre. In this interview he talks about how the Red Cross is using climate information to mobilize […]

East Africa Drought Is “Exceptional”

In this video interview, IRI’s chief climate scientist, Simon Mason, explains how truly intense the drought in East Africa has been compared to other droughts. In many parts of Kenya…the amount of rain that has been received is less 25% of normal, in some areas it’s less than 5%. To put those figures in context…much […]

Are We Entering an Age of Mega-Fires?

For millennia, people have set fires to clear land for cultivation, pastures or hunting; so-called slash-and-burn agriculture is still common across much of tropical Africa, Asia and South America. It has been a useful strategy, but it is now becoming problematic. A new Earth Institute story and documentary, shot in the Peruvian Amazon, follows the […]

Climate Services event at COP-17

The International Research Institute for Climate and Society will be hosting a panel event at this year’s United Nations Climate Change Conference taking place in Durban, South Africa from Nov. 28 to Dec. 9. The panelists will discuss the recent creation of the Climate Services Partnership, which was the main outcome of the recent International […]

Health Risks From Famine Likely to Persist

In a video interview about the East Africa famine, IRI’s Madeleine Thomson, an expert in climate and public health, says the health consequences of the famine will be felt not only in the short term, but for years and decades to come: We know from the 1984 Ethiopia famine that the impacts are intergenerational. They […]

The Role of Drought in the Horn of Africa Famine

Let’s get this out of the way. The current famine in the Horn of Africa isn’t caused by drought. Rather, a complex mix of societal and political factors created a dangerous situation.The worst drought in 60 years is what pushed that situation over the edge into a humanitarian crisis. However, just as these social factors were […]

Climate Information Crucial to Help Reduce Risk and Limit Disaster Damage

Forecasts can play an invaluable role when used properly in helping humanitarian agencies and governments plan for and prevent disasters, according to the latest Climate and Societypublication launched by the IRI and the American Red Cross last week in Washington D.C. Climate and weather disasters, from the massive floods in Pakistan, Australia and Colombia, to the […]

To Burn, or Not to Burn

Imagine smoke and haze so thick it causes ships to crash into each other, shuts down airports and sends millions of people to the hospital with respiratory problems. This was the scene in Southeast Asia in 1997 and 1998, when land-clearing fires set by massive palm oil plantations and small scale farmers burned out of […]

La Niña Related Impacts Likely to Continue

As of mid-January, moderate-to-strong La Niña conditions continue to exist in the tropical Pacific. Scientists at the International Research Institute for Climate and Society expect these to linger, potentially causing additional shifts in rainfall patterns across many parts of the world in months to come. These shifts, combined with socioeconomic conditions and other factors, can […]

Managing Risk in a Changing Climate: Making the Case

by Stephen Zebiak We live in a time of rapidly escalating concern about climate change. Although scientific evidence on climate change has been steadily building over many years, only recently has the consensus concerning observed impacts and future scenarios reached a level to capture the world’s attention. Increasingly, the question of whether or not climate […]

Climate Information Helps Prepare for Disasters

Climate-related disasters can have a devastating impact on human life and development. Globally, climate events including floods, droughts, cyclones, heat waves and mudslides contribute to tens of thousands of deaths, hundreds of thousands of injuries and billions of dollars in economic losses each year. In recent years, it’s become clear that such losses can be […]

Climate Risks in Haiti

In this Q+A, IRI staffers discuss some of the climate-related risks that could affect Haitians over the next year as they struggle to rebuild their country after a devastating earthquake in January. Currently, about 1.2 million Haitians are without proper shelter, and an additional 470,000 have been displaced from their homes, according to the U.N. […]

Climate information seen as key in new Early Warning, Early Action report

The latest World Disasters Report by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies argues that disaster-relief agencies need to shift focus from expensive response operations to cost-effective prevention measures. An important component of this, the report details, is using climate records, monitoring and forecasts to make planning decisions days, weeks, even months […]

Climate Information and Humanitarian Assistance

The International Research Institute for Climate and Society, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre produced a short video for COP 15 called Using Climate and Weather Forecasts to Improve Humanitarian Decision Making. In the video, staff from the three organizations detail how they have […]

Index insurance for development and disaster management

Para Espanol: Seguro ‘parametrico’ y reduccion de la pobreza Pour Francais: Une assurance particuliere pour la gestion des risques climatiques Climate has always presented a challenge to farmers, herders, fishermen and others whose livelihoods are closely linked to their environment, particularly those in poor areas of the world. A type of insurance called index insurance […]

Shifting from Response to Prevention

Torrential rains lashed West and Central African countries this rainy season, setting off flooding and causing considerable damage. On the evening of June 26th alone, nearly 200 millimeters of rain fell on the villages of Malem Hoddar and Malem Thierigne in eastern Senegal. The ensuing flash floods killed at least one person, displaced dozens of […]

A New Partnership

The International Research Institute for Climate and Society, part of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies have forged a partnership to help save lives from the humanitarian impacts of climate change. The IRI is developing tailored forecasting and monitoring products to help the International […]

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