Study Projects

Climate Variability and Human Health Impacts in Colombia

Research Results – 2003/01
Research Results – 2002/09

Funding Institution

Inter-American Institute for Global Change Research

Project Summary

Research Objectives

To understand the physical mechanisms linking climate variability and entomological processes associated with malaria transmission in two endemic areas of Colombia.

To develop a comprehensive systems dynamics model to link malaria transmission and climate in Colombia.

To construct a Geographic Information System for Malaria in the Java programming language using data at the national, regional and local levels in Colombia.

Geographic Areas

The particular geographic focus of this research is in the malaria-prone regions of Chocó along the Pacific coast of Colombia and El Bagre along the Cauca river valley in northwestern Colombia. Malaria incidence is high in these areas and they are clearly affected by climatic variability due to El Niño/Southern Oscillation. The two areas provide a contrast in malaria vectors -- Anopheles albimanus is the malaria vector in Chocó while El Bagre has all five known malaria vectors of Colombia. The two areas are also relatively safe for field workers.

Data Collection - Retrospective/Prospective

This prospective study uses entomological, epidemiological and climatological field data collected in the areas of Chocó and El Bagre. Laboratory experiments establish relationships between climatic parameters and entomological variables.


The effort involves three main scientific tasks:
  • Coordination and supervision of mathematical models, including Neural Nets and Fuzzy Sets to construct risk maps.
  • Coordination of field campaigns, including gathering entomological, epidemiological and climatological data in the regions of Chocó and El Bagre.
  • Data analysis and modeling, as well as designing laboratory experiments, to establish relationships between climatic parameters and entomological variables.

Research Team

The leader of the research team is Dr. German Poveda, Associate Professor at the Graduate Programme in Water Resources, Universidad Nacional de Colombia at Medellin, Colombia. He works in collaboration with Dr. William Rojas (Corporación para Investigaciones Biológicas, CIB) and Drs. Martha Lucia Quiñones and Ivan Dario Vélez (Programa de Estudio y Control de Enfermedades Tropicales, Universidad de Antioquia, Medellin).

Support personnel, including biologists and field assistants are in charge of carrying out all field work and laboratory experiments. The field assistants take part in the entomological sampling. They also assist the biologists in the supervision of the collections and performance of the laboratory activities.

The Colombian team received the Colombian Science Award in 2001 for their work on the association between climate and malaria in Colombia. The award is given by the Alejandro Angel Foundation (
It is the most important scientific prize in Colombia.


Poveda G. 2002. Climate and ENSO Associations with Malaria Incidence in Colombia. International Research Institute for Climate Prediction.

Poveda G, Rojas W, Quiñones ML, Vélez ID, Mantilla RI, Ruiz D, Zuluaga JS, Rua GL. 2001. Coupling between annual and ENSO timescales in the malaria-climate association in Colombia. Environ Health Perspect 109: 489-493.

Poveda G, Graham NE, Epstein PR, Rojas W, Quiñones ML, Velez ID, Martens WJM. 2000. Climate and ENSO variability associated with vector-borne diseases in Colombia. In: El Niño and the Southern Oscillation, Multiscale Variability and Global and Regional Impacts (Diaz HF, Markgraf V, eds.), Cambridge, pp.183-204.

Poveda G, Rojas W. 1997. Evidences of the association between outbreaks of malaria in Colombia and the El Niño-Southern Oscillation [in Spanish]. Revista de la Academia Colombiana de Ciencias, Vol. XXI (no.81): 421-429.