1. Module I: Basic Concept on Climate

1.1. Lecture 1: Understanding Climate Information

1.1.1. Instructional Goal

Provide an overview of basic concepts in climate and a common understanding of what climate information is and its limitations.

1.1.2. Learning Objectives

  • Understand the terms weather vs. climate, climatology, climate variability vs. climate change, climate anomalies, climate data vs. climate information (forecast products, monitoring products).
  • Understand the time and space scales of the different climate phenomena.
  • Understand different data sources and to understand different approaches to transform climate data in climate information.

1.1.3. Summary

One of the main issues of multidisciplinary research is that each discipline has its own approaches, methods and terminology, shaped during the development period of the discipline. Those are most often dictated by availability of the data and data acquisition methods, which led the discipline in given direction, sometime influenced by personal choices of people having contributed to the discipline. This lecture introduces the basic concepts in climatology to enable the participants from the Public Health Sector to efficiently interact with the Climate and Meteorological Community. For example, the notion of scale (spatial and temporal) is central to understanding climate and climate analyses and leads automatically to the distinction between climate variability and climate change (e.g., ENSO). Understanding climate/meteorological data acquisition methods and sources, and related constraints on available information as well as the basic distinction between data and information are also necessary steps to build a common understanding of what is possible. The most common analysis methods used in climate sciences will be introduced with emphasis on the importance of scale adequacy for the problem at stake.

1.1.5. Additional Readings and Resources

1.1.6. Video

1.1.7. Quiz

Quiz 1

1.2. Lecture 2: Understanding Forecast, Prediction and Projections

1.2.1. Instructional Goal

Provide the participants with an understanding of the rationale behind different types of predictions and projections with an emphasis on the interpretation and limitations of the available information

1.2.2. Learning Objectives

  • Understand predictions and climate projections with an emphasis on the interpretation and limitations of the available information
  • Introduce participants to the ensemble technique and probabilistic approach to climate prediction as well as the downscaling and verification procedures

1.2.3. Summary

Climate forecasts or projections are often misinterpreted due to their probabilistic format, often omitted in sectoral applications. There is more and more interest in health impact of the future climate so it is important that the current generation of Public Health professionals understands what the projections can or cannot tell us. The lecture is aimed at explaining why forecasts/projections can only be produced in a probabilistic format, which, in fact, attempts to quantify the uncertainty attached to the forecast output. Sources of uncertainty as well as the main forecasting methods will be presented. We will devote some time to a practical interpretation of two examples of forecasts: the seasonal forecast and the Climate Change scenario. An important element for the decision process, forecast verification, will also be briefly introduced.

1.2.4. Recommended readings

1.2.5. Video

1.2.6. Quiz

Quiz 2

1.3. Lecture 3: Representativeness of Data Sets and Implications for Trend Analysis

1.3.1. Instructional Goal

Understand the limitations of climatological data sets before performing data analysis.

1.3.2. Learning Objectives

  • Understand the source and intended use of climate data in order to avoid placing an excessive burden on these data when conducting analyses.
  • Provide examples of regional variations in climate variability and trends.
  • Understand the importance of data quality control.
  • Gain an appreciation of some of the challenges in assessing temporal trends.

1.3.3. Summary

Several studies have considered the impact of climate change, and temperature in particular, on the distribution and incidence of malaria in the highland regions of East Africa. The results, however, often led to different conclusions. This was in part related to the fact that they typically used different climate datasets which were either interpolated analyses based on station observations or an insufficient set of station observations, or length of record, for the specific areas of interest.

It is indeed a critical issue to understand the climate (or health) data being used in any study, including limitations in using such data before conducting any analysis. This includes the issue of data quality but also using the appropriate time scale of information (e.g., daily versus monthly rainfall data) for the health question being considered. One needs to take into account the caveats to using gridded data derived from point observations, for example, to avoid drawing potentially inappropriate conclusions from the analysis. Indeed, any analysis should begin with a simple, exploratory step that can subsequently be followed by more sophisticated methods. It is recommended that when undertaking interdisciplinary studies that experts from across disciplines are involved to help minimize misinterpretation of the datasets being used.

This lecture will illustrate these points through considering the analysis of the relation between malaria and temperature in the highlands of Kenya.

1.3.4. Recommended readings

  • Hay SI, Cox J, Rogers DJ, Randolph SE, Stern DI, Shanks GD, et al. Climate change and the resurgence of malaria in the East African highlands. Nature 2002;415(6874):905-909: Resurgence of malaria in East African highlands
  • Omumbo,J.,B.Lyon.,S.Connor,and M.Thomson, : Raises temperatures over the Kerocho tea estates:revisiting the climate in the East African highlands malaria debate. Malaria Journal, 10 (1), 12 pp, doi: 10.1186/1475-2875-10-12.: Malaria debate in East African highlands

1.3.5. Video

1.3.6. Quiz

Quiz 3