News Archive

2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003 | 2002


April/May 2006

Loss of Winter Snowpack in Mountains Forecast in 21st Century

A new climate forecast points to a massive loss of snowpack in mountains by the year 2100. Less snowpack means less runoff from snowmelt, which is an important source of fresh water.

The Andes mountains are projected to lose more than half of their snowpack. Europe and the Western U.S. will also be severely impacted, losing nearly half of their snowpack. According to the forecast, snow in New Zealand mountains will almost disappear.

For more information, read "New Century of Thirst for World's Mountains" at the NASA Earth Observatory.

U.S. Plans for National Integrated Drought Information System

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is leading an effort to implement a National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS). According to NOAA, the annual economic costs of drought average about six to eight billion dollars. Impacts of concern include wildfires, water restrictions and reduced crop yields. NIDIS will create a drought early warning system to facilitate proactive decisions aimed at minimizing economic, social and ecosystem losses associated with drought. Research is needed for making drought forecasts more useful and timely.

For more information, visit NOAA's NIDIS website:


March 2006

Climate Early Warning System for Malaria Epidemics in Botswana

Malaria in Botswana occurs as climate-related epidemics. The risk of an epidemic in Botswana rises just after a season of heavy rainfall. Using climate forecasting, a new study shows that malaria epidemics can be predicted up to five months ahead. Early warning can permit strategic deployment of insecticides and drugs.

Read more in the Malaria Dossier in SciDev.Net. The news article is dated Feb 1, 2006 and is titled "Watching weather could predict malaria epidemics." It has a link to the full paper in Nature 439, 576 (2006).

Adaptation Policy Frameworks for Climate Change

The Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) published guidance for practitioners on Adaptation Policy Frameworks for Climate Change: Developing Strategies, Policies and Measures. It is based on four principles:

  • Adaptation to short-term climate variability and extreme events serves as a starting point for reducing vulnerability to longer-term climate change.
  • Adaptation occurs at different levels in society, including the local level.
  • Adaptation policy and measures should be assessed in a development context.
  • The adaptation strategy and the stakeholder process by which it is implemented are equally important.

The full report is available online. It is also available in paperback, published by Cambridge University Press (2005).

February 2006

Strategy to Reduce the Urban Heat Island Effect in New York City

Urban heat islands generate warmer air temperatures in cities than in the surrounding suburbs and countryside. Adverse impacts during the summertime include heat waves and poor air quality, as the formation of ozone is enhanced by warmer temperatures. Blackouts are more likely as the demand rises for electricity to run air conditioning systems to keep cool.

NASA researchers have assessed strategies to reduce the urban heat island effect in New York City. They have concluded that vegetation is the most effective tool. Another approach is making roof tops very bright to reflect more sunlight. There is more area available in New York City to make roof tops lighter than to add vegetation.

The NASA Earth Observatory has more information.

Are Natural Disasters Becoming More Frequent?

Notable disasters in the year 2005 include Hurricane Katrina in the city of New Orleans and the October earthquake in Pakistan and India. The impacts of disasters reflect the combined effects of social and natural factors.

Poor and vulnerable people are usually the worst hit. Poor people cut down trees for wood, a factor in the devasting impact of flooding in Haiti in 2004. Poor people looking for spaces to live often have little choice but to move into areas with higher risks.

Other factors are important as well. Development and industrialization have led to straightening rivers for commercial traffic, a factor thought to have made the Rhine River in Europe more prone to flooding. Hurricanes in the Caribbean are now more frequent because of a natural climate cycle, although global warming may be contributing to the appearance of more severe storms.

Read more at the Pan American Health Organization.


January 2006

Millennium Ecosystem Assessment of Human Health

Ecosystems and Human Well-Being: Health Synthesis presents the findings from the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment on how ecosystem changes do, or could, affect human health and well-being. The regions facing the greatest problems related to a sustainable supply of ecosystem services generally face the greatest challenges in achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

Key ecosystem services are:

  • food;
  • fresh water;
  • fuel;
  • nutrient and waste management;
  • cultural, spiritual, and recreational benefits; and
  • climate regulation.

The full report is available online at the World Health Organization.

Atlas of Global Environmental Change

The comparisons of satellite images in One Planet, Many People: Atlas of Our Changing Environment demonstrate dramatic, sometimes damaging, environmental changes around the globe. Some of the highlights are rapid urbanization, shrimp farming and forest loss. It includes sections on the atmosphere, coastal areas, water, forests, cropland, grassland, urban areas, tundra and polar regions. Impacts of natural and human-induced extreme events are also included.

The complete document is available online at the United Nations Environment Program.



December 2005

Warmer Temperature Accelerates Egg-Laying Cycle of Malaria Mosquito Vector in Colombia

Laboratory studies have demonstrated that warmer temperature accelerates the egg-laying (gonotrophic) cycle of Anopheles albimanus, the principal malaria vector along the Pacific Coast of Colombia. Previous observations have revealed a rise in malaria transmission along the Pacific Coast of Colombia when the air temperature warms during an El Niño event. The effect of temperature on the gonotrophic cycle could help to explain this rise in malaria transmission. A shorter gonotrophic cycle will tend to increase the rate at which mosquito vectors bite humans to get bloodmeals for oocyte development. In this study area, the population density of An. albimanus does not appear to increase during El Niño conditions, thus suggesting the importance of examining other climate-sensitive characteristics of the mosquito population.

For more information, read the full article: Rua GL et al. Laboratory estimation of the effects of increasing temperatures on the duration of gonotrophic cycle of Anopheles albimanus (Diptera: Culicidae). Mem. Inst. Oswaldo Cruz Vol. 100 (5): 515-520 (August 2005)

Highlights of U.S. National Academies Reports on Climate Change

The U.S. National Academies have produced a summary of the highlights of their reports on climate change. The summary addresses:

  • understanding climate change;
  • documenting the impacts of climate change; and
  • developing effective response strategies for climate change.

The summary identifies climate change reports, newsletters, and notification services offered by the National Academies.

The summary is available online: Understanding and Responding to Climate Change -- Highlights of National Academies Reports (2005).


November 2005

A Warmer World Might Not Be Wetter

Climate models typically predict that warmer temperatures will increase global evaporation and precipitation. However, rising temperatures also increase the amount of water in the atmosphere. A NASA simulation study points to a trend of decreasing precipitation over land masses and increasing precipitation over oceans. Further study is needed with a regional focus. NASA's Aqua and Terra satellites provide data on processes that contribute to the water cycle.

The NASA Earth Observatory has more information about this project:

Colloquium on Science and Solving the Earth's Emerging Water Problems

The U.S. National Academy of Sciences sponsored a colloquium in October of 2004 to address the use of science in solving the Earth's emerging water problems. The presentations provided a global overview with perspectives about the environment, management, and social institutions.

An essential concept is that water resources management has three major aims.

  • Secure water for societal needs and food production.
  • Avoid problems related to water-related hazards and side effects of human activities generated by the hidden destroyer function.
  • Foresee predictable problems related to driving forces at work.

An emerging international problem is that some countries import food to compensate for lack of water. The number of countries importing food for this reason will increase while the number of countries exporting food for this reason will remain about the same.

The title of the report is (Sackler NAS Colloquium) The Role of Science in Solving the Earth's Emerging Water Problems (2005). The full report is online at the National Academies Press.


October 2005

Workshop on Climate Science in Support of Decision Making

The U.S. Climate Change Science Program (CCSP) is sponsoring a workshop on Climate Science in Support of Decision Making on 14 - 16 November 2005 in Arlington, Virginia. The workshop is designed to address the information needs of decision makers, advances in climate change science, applications of scientific information, and priorities for future research. Sessions will focus on applications to management in several sectors:

  • water;
  • ecosystems;
  • coastal zone;
  • air quality; and
  • energy.

More information can be found at:

Research on How Atmospheric Tropical Waves Become Hurricanes

Many Atlantic hurricanes start as a disturbance in the atmosphere above equatorial Africa. Some of these atmospheric tropical waves grow larger and start spinning. They may further develop into tropical depressions, tropical storms, and finally hurricanes. NASA/JPL researchers are using a microwave atmospheric profiler to study tropical waves for the Tropical Cloud Systems and Processes mission. Some tropical waves may cross the Atlantic and develop into hurricanes only when they reach the Eastern Pacific ocean. The researchers are focusing on Costa Rica to examine the idea that the topography of Central America gives tropical waves a twist that assists the formation of hurricanes in the Eastern Pacific.

The NASA Earth Observatory has more information about this project:

NASA's hurricane page has more news stories about hurricanes, including links to NOAA resources:


September 2005

Remote Sensing for Disaster Management and Epidemiologic Surveillance

EOM magazine highlights several applications of remote sensing to disaster management and epidemiologic surveillance in its August 2005 issue. The topics include:

  • NASA's Applied Sciences Program for public health applications in environmental public health tracking, surveillance for arboviruses and plague, global situational awareness, rapid syndrome validation, and a command center for the Secretary of the Dept. of Health and Human Services.
  • NASA's Applied Sciences Program for disaster management in relation to wind and coastal zone inundation, wildfire migration, and tsunami/ocean monitoring.
  • NOAA's polar-orbiting and geostationary satellites for tracking hurricanes.
  • NOAA/NESDIS's operational fire and smoke monitoring system.
  • USDA's Forest Service program for fire detection and mapping.

The EOM August 2005 issue is available online at:

Burden of Climate Change in Africa

Africa's vulnerability to change change is intensified because of the interaction of multiple stressors -- the spread of HIV/AIDS, the effect of economic globalization, the privatization of resources, and conflict. Precipitation is especially important, with projections that wet areas will get more rainfall while dry subtropical zones will receive less. A new understanding of the Sahel drought of the 1970s points to the role of the ocean temperature gradient between the northern and southern hemispheres, although there is debate about whether changing gradients are due to natural variability or anthropogenic changes to the atmosphere. Associated with droughts are dust storms, whose physical particles along with bacterial, fungal, and chemical pollutants can impair health, and threats to crop and animal production. Broader ecosystem changes may also reduce wild sources of food and alter the transmission of infectious diseases.

For more information, see Continental Divide: Why Africa's Climate Change Burden Is Greater by Scott Fields in Environmental Health Perspectives, Vol. 113, No. 8, August 2005.


August 2005

Global Health Watch Report on Inequalities

The Global Health Watch aims to address inequalities by shifting the health policy agenda to recognize the political, social, and economic barriers to better health. Its first report highlights several themes:

  • Health and Globalization: Increases in global trade can increase poverty, which in turn is associated with higher rates of infant mortality.
  • Health Care Services and Systems: Where health care has to be purchased directly out of pocket, it regularly pushes people deeper into poverty.
  • Health of Vulnerable Groups: The concerns of indigenous peoples and people with disabilities are often marginalized.
  • The Wider Health Context: Health care professionals and health care systems can facilitate and promote action for health in a range of different sectors (climate change; water; food; education; war).
  • Holding to Account: There is a need for more financial assistance, greater democracy, and better program management.

The full report is available online at:

Community Meeting on the Future of the U.S. Weather Prediction Enterprise

The U.S. weather prediction community is greatly concerned about the future of the enterprise. It convened in Boulder, Colorado on July 26 - 28, 2005 in order to assess its strengths and weaknesses as well as to examine the need for a more cooperative and coordinated approach to weather prediction operations and research. A clear warning sign is that the United States now lags Europe in weather prediction capability. Weather prediction is not a mature technology. Much work remains to be done in physical parameterizations, data assimilation, and the development and application of probabilistic prediction.

A few decades ago, only the National Weather Service and the military were involved in numerical weather prediction. Today, the number and diversity of participants have grown in universities, private sector firms, and local forecast offices. There is a corresponding need for a more open and inclusive approach to decision-making that goes beyond federal agencies.

More information is on the web at:


July 2005

IAI Organizes Training Institute on Climate and Health in the Americas

IAI Training Institute on Climate and Health in the Americas. Organizers: Inter-American Institute for Global Change Research (IAI), University of the West Indies. Kingston, Jamaica: November 7-18, 2005.

There is a great need to strengthen the capacity to understand and assess the impacts of climate change and variability on public health with the aim of providing better tools for decision-makers to develop adaptation strategies to reduce or prevent such impacts. The approach is fundamentally cross-sectoral and cross-disciplinary in that the health sector must engage professionals in climate, weather, ecosystems, water resources, agriculture, and various social sciences. The central objective of this training institute is to help develop and strengthen local and regional capacity (human resources) to deal with the impacts of climate variability and climate change on human health in the populations of the Americas, particularly Latin America and the Caribbean.

Application deadline is August 15, 2005. For more information, contact the IAI; +55 12 3945 6889; e-mail:;

New Concepts in Radiative Forcing of Climate Change

The U.S. National Research Council has reviewed the state of scientific knowledge of how radiative forcing affects Earth's climate. Earth and its atmosphere receive energy and emit energy. Earth's energy balance is modified by "forcings", including gases and aerosols, land use, and solar variability.

The traditional approach to climate models examines global mean surface temperature in relation to top-of-atmosphere (TOA) radiative forcing. The traditional concept is inadequate for some forcing agents, such as aerosols and land-use changes, that may have regional climate impacts greater than expected from TOA analysis. The concept of radiative forcing needs to be extended in three ways. First, it needs to account for vertical structure of radiative forcing in the atmosphere. Second, it needs to account for regional variability in radiative forcing. Third, it needs to account for non-radiative forcing, which is an energy imbalance that does not directly involve radiation, such as increasing evapotranspiration flux resulting from agricultural irrigation.

The title of the report is Radiative Forcing of Climate Change: Expanding the Concept and Addressing Uncertainties. The full report is online at the National Academies Press.


June 2005

Climate Variability and Health Effects in the Americas: Studies Supported by the IAI

The Interamerican Institute for Global Change Research (IAI) has supported projects in climate and health effects in the Americas, primarily with a focus on how El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) events and other seasonal to interannual climate variation influence the transmission dynamics of infectious diseases. The principal motivation for these studies is the hope of creating "climate-health early warning systems." Some highlights are as follows:

  • In northeastern Brazil, infant mortality caused by diarrheal diseases increased during periods of drought.
  • Urban outbreaks of visceral leishmaniasis (kala-azar) in northeastern Brazil in the early 1980s and the early 1990s were probably associated with drought-induced rural-to-urban migration caused by ENSO events.
  • In Roraima, Brazil, ENSO events caused prolonged droughts that reduced the populations of mosquito vectors of malaria and hence reduced the transmission of malaria.
  • In Colombia, modeling work found that a rise in temperature was the main factor influencing a region of malaria transmission during a major ENSO event (1997-1998).
  • In southern Venezuela, malaria incidence decreased during 1990-1992, apparently due to a reduction in rainfall. However, in northern coastal Venezuela, malaria incidence decreased as rainfall intensity increased.
  • In Mexico, along the Gulf of Mexico, the monthly incidence of dengue was positively correlated with the previous month's precipitation intensity.

Dr. Ulisses Confalonieri (FIOCRUZ, Brazil) and Dr. Joan Aron (SCS, USA) of the Collaborative Research Network on Climate Variability and Human Health Impacts in the Tropical Americas wrote the review on which this news item is based. The review appears in the IAI Annual Report for 2003/2004, starting on page 34 (in Spanish and English).

Interdisciplinary Environmental Science for the 21st Century: Contributions of IAI Research and Training

Environmental science for the 21st century requires perspectives from a large number of disciplines. The need to integrate information that ranges from biophysical measurements to social impacts raises challenges for the organization and conduct of interdisciplinary studies, the training of young scientists, and the translation of science into policy. The Interamerican Institute for Global Change Research (IAI) is in a strong position to meet this challenge because it is structured to transcend disciplinary boundaries as well as national boundaries through its collaborative research networks and short-term Training Institutes.

IAI's research and training activities bring different disciplines together to address three major generic issues of concern in interdisciplinary environmental science.

  • Disciplines have to learn to appreciate the contributions of other disciplines that have different epistemological structures and therefore make different assumptions about the nature of knowledge.
  • Interdisciplinary collaboration has to address the logistical issues of the production, interpretation, and dissemination of scientific information for different disciplines.
  • Interdisciplinary training must balance transdisciplinary requirements with a solid intellectual grounding in a core discipline.

Dr. Stephen G. Perz of the University of Florida (USA) and Dr. Diogenes S. Alves (INPE, Brazil) wrote the review on which this news item is based. The review appears in the IAI Annual Report for 2003/2004, starting on page 20 (in Spanish and English).


May 2005

Urgent Needs in Earth Science and Applications from Space

The U.S. National Research Council's Committee on Earth Science and Applications from Space affirms the imperative of a robust Earth observation and research program to address the sustainability of human life on Earth. Satellite systems to date have produced new and exciting perspectives on Earth and how it is changing. Investments in research and the present systems have served to improve health, enhance national security, and spur economic growth.

The Committee reports that the current U.S. civilian Earth observing system is at risk of collapse. NASA has no plans to replace its Earth Observing System platforms. NASA has also canceled, delayed, or reduced the scope of missions, including the Landsat Data Continuity Mission. The major exception to this trend is NOAA's plans to modernize its weather satellites. The Committee makes several recommendations:

  • Proceed with NASA missions that have been delayed or canceled.
  • Evaluate plans needed for transferring capabilities to the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite Series (NPOESS).
  • Develop a technological base for exploratory Earth Observation Systems.
  • Reinvigorate the NASA Earth Explorer Missions Program.
  • Strengthen research and analysis programs.
  • Strengthen baseline climate observations and climate data records.

The report is Earth Science and Applications from Space: Urgent Needs and Opportunities to Serve the Nation, National Academies Press (2005). The full text is online.

Prometheus: Science Policy Weblog Addressing Climate and Other Issues

Prometheus is a science policy weblog, a project of the University of Colorado Center for Science and Technology Policy Research. Prometheus is designed to create an informal outlet for news, information, and opinion on science policy. One of the principal focus areas is climate-related policy. All users can attach comments to articles. The editors of Prometheus accept contributed articles on a case-by-case basis. Sample topics are:

  • Policy, politics, and science in the White House (lecture series at Univ. of Colorado).
  • Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as "honest broker" in climate policy.
  • Balancing water law and science.


April 2005

International Decade of Water for Life, 2005 - 2015

UN - Water has launched the International Decade of Water for Life, 2005 - 2015. The goal is to fulfill international commitments made on water and water-related issues by 2015. Specific objectives are to:

  • Halve the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation.
  • Stop the unsustainable exploitation of water resources and develop plans for integrated water resource management and water efficiency.
  • Ensure the involvement of women in these development efforts.

Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS)

An international effort is underway to integrate Earth-observation capabilities into a Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS) with the hope of generating environmental, economic, and health benefits. Some potential health and safety applications could involve:

  • Mapping habitats that harbor malaria, cholera, and West Nile Virus.
  • Monitoring air and water pollution.
  • Measuring tectonic movement of the ocean floor.

Terra Cognita: Using Earth Observing Systems to Understand Our World
Charles W. Schmidt
Environmental Health Perspectives, Vol. 113, No. 2, February 2005


March 2005

Report from 2005 National Conference on West Nile Virus in the United States

The 2005 National Conference on West Nile Virus (WNV) in the United States recently met in San Jose, California on February 8-9. Hosted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Division of Vector-Borne Infectious Diseases, the conference was heavily attended and included sessions on:

  • Surveillance
  • Epidemiology/clinical studies
  • Virology
  • Field biology/ecology
  • Laboratory diagnosis
  • Communication/behavior change
  • Mosquito control

With reports of the first human WNV case in 2005 coming just days before from the San Gabriel Valley in California, the sessions on surveillance and mosquito control generated particular interest.

The CDC website has slides from the WNV conferences in 2005 and earlier years.

The WNV conference website currently has program information for the 2005 WNV conference and in the coming months will post program information for the 2006 WNV conference.

Call for Papers for Workshop in Switzerland on Climate, Climatic Change, and Human Health

An interdisciplinary workshop on climate, climatic change, and human health will be held in Wengen, Switzerland on September 12-14, 2005. The organizers are seeking papers by April 15, 2005 on a variety of topics:

  • Health issues of the 2003 heat wave in Europe: lessons for the future?
  • Climate variability and health (e.g., effects of El Niño)
  • Land-use changes and diseases (e.g., health impacts of deforestation)
  • Spread of disease through vertical temperature changes (e.g., malaria)
  • Changing vegetation patterns and its influence on health (e.g., impacts on pollen-related allergies)
  • Enhanced air pollution in a warmer climate and its impacts on health
  • Aggregate impacts on human health in a changing climate: food security, water availability and quality, increase in natural hazards, socio-economic drivers of health problems
  • Policy aspects of climatic change and health

For additional information, visit the workshop website.


February 2005

Knowledge-Action Systems for Seasonal to Interannual Climate Forecasting

The Roundtable on Science and Technology for Sustainability Policy and Global Affairs (U.S. National Research Council) has just produced a report entitled Knowledge-Action Systems for Seasonal to Interannual Climate Forecasting: Summary of a Workshop. They find six components of effective systems to be as follows.

  • Problem definition that is collaborative but user-driven.
  • Complete inclusion on the continuum of decision maker to knowledge producer ('end-to-end systems').
  • Boundary organizations that act as intermediaries between nodes in the system -- most notably between scientists and decision makers.
  • Design for learning rather than knowing (featuring flexible processes and institutions).
  • Funding strategies tailored to the dual private/public character of such systems and with sufficient continuity to foster long-term relationships between users and producers.
  • Long-term investments in people who can work across disciplines, issue areas, and the knowledge-action interface.

The Roundtable is planning a follow-on project Empirical Research on Linking Knowledge to Action for Sustainable Development.

Read the complete report online at the National Academies Press.

How Science Makes Environmental Controversies Worse

Daniel Sarewitz, writing in a recent article entitled How Science Makes Environmental Controversies Worse, rejects the common claim that scientific research invariably helps to resolve scientific controversy by reducing uncertainties. Additional research may instead reveal heretofore unknown complexities in natural systems. A major insight is that competing disciplinary approaches to understanding the scientific bases of an environmental controversy may be causally-tied to competing value-based political or ethical positions.

The author suggests that progress in addressing environmental controversies needs to come primarily from advances in political process, rather than scientific research. Instead of using science as a predictive oracle, he calls upon science to be a tool to support, monitor, and assess the implementation of policies that have been selected through the political process.

The article was published in the journal Environmental Science & Policy, Vol. 7: 385-403 (2004) and may be found on the web at the Consortium for Science, Policy & Outcomes.


January 2005

Indian Ocean Tsunami Death Toll Greater Than 150,000

On December 26, 2004, an earthquake registering 9.0 magnitude ruptured the seafloor for more than 600 miles (1000 kilometers) under the Indian Ocean to the west of the Indonesian island of Sumatra. The earthquake generated powerful waves, known as tsunamis, that hit the coastlines of 11 Indian Ocean countries from Thailand to Africa. The death toll is over 150,000, including both Western tourists and local residents. For the survivors, many of whom are homeless and have lost family members, the immediate concern is to prevent further loss of life. Relief agencies are striving to provide food, water, shelter, and medical services as well as to prevent epidemics of communicable diseases. Rebuilding social and economic lives is a longer-term goal.

Tsunamis are more common in the Pacific Ocean. A tsunami warning center in Hawaii serves the Pacific Basin ( and another center in Alaska serves the West Coast of North America and Alaska ( No tsunami warning center serves the Indian Ocean region at the present time.

Satellite imagery of the tsunami impacts from Digital Globe

Science of tsunamis from National Geographic News

Humanitarian and reconstruction assistance information from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the World Health Organization, and the U.S. Agency for International Development

At Risk: New Edition of Book on Natural Hazards, People's Vulnerability, and Disasters

At Risk (2nd edition) discusses disaster not as an aberration but as a failure of development. It focuses on what makes people vulnerable, arguing that extreme natural events are not disasters until a vulnerable group of people is exposed. One analytical model links remote root causes to unsafe conditions. A second analytical model focuses on the vulnerability of households as related to the concepts of access and livelihood.

The book points out the highly selective treatment of disaster by the Western media. Underreporting is most common for disasters that are slow-onset and long-term, especially if linked to war or a post-war situation. Contrast the intensive coverage of the Indian Ocean tsunami with the limited coverage of rural violence and urban marginalization in Colombia.

The authors are Ben Wisner, Piers Blaikie, Terry Cannon, and Ian Davis. The publisher is Routledge (



December 2004

Impacts of the 2004 Atlantic Hurricane Season

The Atlantic hurricane season in 2004 was devastating. Some highlights of the season are noted below.

  • Tropical Storm Jeanne was no longer a hurricane when it hit Haiti but nevertheless was very destructive because of Haiti's deforestation, poverty, and political instability.
  • Hurricane Ivan destroyed many buildings on the island of Grenada, leaving 8,000 people in shelters one month after its passage.
  • The Federal Emergency Management Agency of the United States spent a record $4.27 billion in hurricane-related disaster aid, the bulk of which was for Florida, the state hit hardest.

For more information about the impacts in the Caribbean, consult the Disasters Newsletter of the Pan American Health Organization. The issue for October 2004 has a special section on the hurricane season.

For more information about the impacts in the United States, consult the news reports by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.


IHDP Reports on Conflict, Cooperation, and Global Environmental Change

Global geopolitics in the 1980s prompted a reconsideration of environmental change as a threat to national security. However, recent studies demonstrate that environmental management offers opportunities for cooperation as well. Understanding these complexities is important for responding to global environmental change. Some highlights of recent reports by the International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change (IHDP) are noted below.

  • Public-private partnerships may play a role in conserving global biodiversity but problems in Brazil demonstrate the challenges in making these partnerships work.
  • The Lempa River Basin shared by Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador is a site of transborder cooperation because of socioeconomic interdependencies, the diffuse nature of environmental degradation, and institutional arrangements.
  • Environmental security research needs to expand from its traditional rural roots to address the problems of rapid and massive urbanization.

For more information, consult the IHDP Newsletter Update in issue 03/2004.


November 2004

Confronting Food and Nutrition Insecurity Associated with Drought and Climate Change in Central America

The Institute of Nutrition of Central America and Panama (INCAP) hosted a scientific conference in September 2004 on Food and Nutrition Security and the Millennium Development Goals. One of the panel sessions focused on a strategic framework for confronting food and nutrition insecurity associated with drought and climate change in Central America. Some highlighted points are:

  • Regional climate forecasts in Central America are used to reduce the threat of malnutrition associated with drought.
  • Food accounts for 70% of exports in Central America, with very little land (7%) under irrigation.
  • Central America presents asymmetries in its regional development, in which the Pacific zone is relatively more interconnected, the north has higher levels of poverty, the borders are marginalized, and the cities offer growing opportunities.
  • Lessons may be learned from the Brazilian program Zero Hunger, which provides income support, food assistance, and nutrition education as well as promotion of improved food production.
The panel session on climate was on the afternoon of Thursday, Sept. 9, 2004. The INCAP website is in Spanish only. The session title in Spanish is as follows: El quehacer y las estrategias desarrolladas por los organismos de la integración centroamericana en el cumplimiento del “Marco Estratégico para enfrentar la situación de inseguridad alimentaria y nutricional asociada a las condiciones de sequía y cambio climático”

The United Nations Millennium Development Goals are an ambitious agenda for reducing poverty and improving lives worldwide. INCAP participates as a part of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), regional office of the World Health Organization (WHO) in the Americas.

Climate and HIV/AIDS in Rural Communities

The new report Climate and HIV/AIDS centers on the concept of "hotspots" in early warning rapid response systems. Although the literature on climate change impacts contains little on HIV/AIDS, this report points out that conditions created by environmental degradation or acute environmental stress may force people to increase their mobility or engage in risky behaviors or activities for survival in which they would not otherwise have engaged. Climate forecasts may provide earlier alerts in the development of crises.

This report was produced by the U.N. Development Program, the Food and Agriculture Program of the U.N., and the (U.S.) National Center for Atmospheric Research.


October 2004

Earth Portal for Global Environmental Information

The Earth Portal will launch officially on World Environment Day on June 5, 2005 in San Francisco, California. This portal is a comprehensive source of global environmental information that aims to enhance collaboration around the world. It displays geography with an interactive 3-dimensional representation of Earth so that users can "zoom in" from space, "pan across" geographic information, and "fly through" visualization of environmental data.

The Earth Portal is being built by the Environmental Information Coalition (EIC), which was established on July 1, 2003 and comprises many organizations in the U.S. and overseas. The National Council for Science and the Environment serves as the EIC secretariat in Washington, DC. Although much of the content will be freely accessible, the financing plan is to make a transition in support structure from philanthropic donors to subscribers paying for premium services.

New Book on the Discovery of Global Warming

The new book The Discovery of Global Warming provides an overview of the history of the science of climate change that is written in a non-technical style (e.g., there are no equations). It begins with 19th century interest in explaining the prehistoric Ice Age and concludes with modern climate science in the context of international negotiations on controlling the emissions of greenhouse gases. Two examples of scientific milestones highlighted are:

  • 1896 -- Arrhenius's first calculation of global warming from human emissions of carbon dioxide.
  • 1960 -- Keeling's measurement of an annual rate of increase of atmospheric carbon dioxide that was much higher than expected.

The author, Spencer R. Weart, is Director of the Center for History of Physics of the American Institute of Physics. He has produced a website that supplements the book, which is published by Harvard University Press.


September 2004

Proceedings of Caribbean Planning Meeting for Geospatial Data Infrastructure

The Mesoamerican and Caribbean Geospatial Alliance (MAC-GA) sponsored a Caribbean Planning Meeting on May 27-28, 2004 at the University of the West Indies in Trinidad. This meeting addressed the application of geospatial data to sustainable development in the region. The aims of the meeting were to help set the future direction of the alliance, facilitate regionally consistent data standards, promote collaboration and identify priorities for donor activities. Discussion focused on four themes: disaster management; land use and land cover mapping; national needs and action plan; and national development in a regional context. Many of the presentations are online.

New Book on an Agenda for Action for the Global Environment

Red Sky at Morning: America and the Crisis of the Global Environment, published by Yale University Press, outlines why efforts to halt environmental degradation have failed and sets out an agenda for dealing with environmental threats. The author, James Gustave Speth, is dean of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. He was the chief executive officer of the United Nations Development Programme and he was a founder and president of the World Resources Institute. He recently received the Blue Planet Prize.

An essential difficulty is that the global environmental agenda is much more complex than the U.S. domestic environmental agenda of the 1970s. The global agenda has to deal with impacts that are remote and difficult to perceive in contrast to the more immediate impacts of polluted air and water. The global problems are often threats in the future and more chronic rather than acute. Further, many global impacts are felt more intensely outside of the U.S.

The book offers eight transitions needed for sustainable development.

  • a stable or smaller world population
  • free of mass poverty
  • environmentally benign technologies
  • environmentally honest prices
  • sustainable consumption
  • knowledge and learning
  • taking "good governance" seriously
  • transition in culture and consciousness


August 2004

Call for Papers for Workshop on Human Security and Climate Change

The Program on Global Environmental Change and Human Security will convene a workshop on Human Security and Climate Change in Oslo, Norway on 21 - 23 June 2005. Its theme will be on how climate change interacts with complex socio-political environments that determine the security of individuals, communities, and nations. The workshop will serve as a focus for setting a research agenda. Those who are interested in participating should submit abstracts by September 20, 2004.

Specific topics include:

  • How does climate change affect vulnerability, and hence human security?
  • What role does climate change play in the array of factors affecting human security?
  • How might climate change directly or indirectly influence conflict or cooperation?

For more information, contact the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research - Oslo (CICERO).

Proposed Global Subsidy for Artemisinin Combination Therapies to Fight Malaria

Malaria is one of the most important climate-sensitive diseases in the world, and its treatment regimen is changing dramatically. For more than 50 years, the antimalarial chloroquine saved millions of lives and cured billions of episodes of malaria. Now chloroquine is becoming less and less effective. The "artemisinins" are a class of drug that can still cure any form of malaria, although at a greater cost than chloroquine. How can the public health community facilitate widespread use of artemisinins while preserving their effectiveness as long as possible?

The U.S. National Research Council Committee on the Economics of Antimalarial Drugs has produced a report to address this question. Their report Saving Lives, Buying Time: Economics of Malaria in an Age of Resistance recommends

  • a sustained global subsidy of artemisinins coformulated with other antimalarials (i.e., artemisinin combination therapies);
  • expanded access to drugs;and
  • combining treatment with interventions to prevent malaria.


July 2004

Reducing the Impacts of Disasters Through Improved Earth Observations

An integrated earth observing system has the potential to transform the disaster culture from reaction to prevention to mitigation. Earth observing systems have already helped to improve the national warning system in the United States. Satellite systems are being used to monitor hurricanes, tornadoes, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, wildfires, oil spills, droughts, and floods.

The Disasters Roundtable of the U.S. National Academies convened a workshop on October 22, 2003 to address how improved earth observations can reduce the impacts of disasters on a global scale. The two central workshop questions were:

  • How can we use our ability to observe the earth's natural systems to create a disaster-resilient society?
  • What challenges and limits remain in earth observation efforts?

The workshop report has been published as Hazards Watch: Reducing the Impacts of Disasters Through Improved Earth Observations. The full report is available online.

Activities of the Pan American Institute of Geography and History

The Pan American Institute of Geography and History (PAIGH) promotes technical cooperation in the Americas in four thematic areas:

  • Cartography projects stimulate and assist the development of geospatial data infrastructure.
  • Geography projects use advanced geographic information systems and geomatic technologies to improve geographic understanding of the region.
  • History projects focus on the perspective of New Global History, leading to greater precision in the knowledge of historical processes in the Americas.
  • Geophysics projects apply geophysical methods to the prevention of natural disasters and to the mitigation and solution of emergency situations.

PAIGH was formed in 1928 and became a specialized organization of the Organization of American States in 1949. (English) (Spanish)


June 2004

Using Climate to Predict Disease Outbreaks: A Review

The World Health Organization (WHO) has published a review of the use of climate information to predict disease outbreaks. This report assesses the potential of early warning systems based on climate variations to enhance global surveillance and response to epidemic-prone diseases. It points to five areas of improvement needed for operational development:

  • disease surveillance systems
  • criteria for evaluation
  • inclusion of non-climatic influences
  • relevance to decision-makers
  • analysis of cost-effectiveness

This document serves as guidance for the WHO Department of Communicable Diseases Surveillance and Response, the WHO Department of Protection of the Human Environment, and the WHO Roll Back Malaria Department (RBM). Its authors are Katrin Kuhn, Diarmid Campbell-Lendrum, Andy Haines, and Jonathan Cox, who are all at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Environment Outlook for Latin America and the Caribbean

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has updated its report on the state of the environment in Latin America and the Caribbean. The analysis has a time frame of 1972-2002 for several themes: socio-economic trends; land; forests; biodiversity; fresh water; coastal and marine areas; atmosphere; urban areas; disasters; and environment and human health. The human health section is a new one that considers the effects of anthropogenic degradation of water, soil, and air. It also highlights the health impacts of El Niño and trends in vector-borne diseases.

The report suggests options for actions in three environmental policy areas:

  • protecting and promoting the sustainable use of priority ecosystems
  • managing the urbanization process
  • addressing the increasing vulnerability of the region's population and ecosystems

GEO Latin America and the Caribbean Environment Outlook 2003 is available in English and Spanish.


May 2004

The Impact of El Niño on Water and Sewerage Infrastructure in Ecuador

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has published a new report entitled: Impact of El Niño on Water and Sewerage Infrastructure: Experiences from Ecuador 1997-1998. This report compiles the experiences of water and sanitation service providers, the effects that the El Niño phenomenon had on infrastructure and the consequences for health.

The El Niño phenomenon produces intense rainfall in Ecuador. In 1997-1998, the provinces in Ecuador most affected were Manabi, Esmeraldas, and Guayas, which are situated along the coast and became partially isolated from the rest of the country. Their economy suffered and the standard of living of their residents declined. Water and sewerage systems were seriously affected. A major vulnerability was the use of bridge supports for conduits of the water and sewerage systems. The transmission of several diseases was affected, especially malaria, cholera, leptospirosis and dengue. This report offers a series of recommendations and solutions to mitigate and prevent the effects of the El Niño phenomenon.

This report is available on the web, but only in Spanish as: Impacto del fenómeno El Niño en la infraestructura de agua y alcantarillado: la experiencia del Ecuador en 1997-1998.

Review of the U.S. Climate Change Science Program Strategic Plan

The U.S. National Academies established a Committee to Review the U.S. Climate Change Science Program (CCSP) Strategic Plan, which reviewed an earlier draft of the CCSP strategic plan. The CCSP responded constructively. The Committee now recommends that the CCSP should:

  • accelerate efforts in previously underemphasized program elements, including ecosystems, the water cycle, human dimensions, economics, impacts, adaptation, and mitigation by rapidly strengthening the science plans and institutional support for these areas;
  • further develop its decision support activities, making sure to meet the needs of local, regional, national, and international decision makers;
  • develop more comprehensive strategies for implementing and sustaining a global Earth observing system and for meeting climate modeling goals;
  • establish and institutionalize effective management processes that create accountability for meeting program goals; and
  • establish a mechanism for independent oversight of the program as a whole in order to maintain its long-term scientific credibility.

The name of the full report is Implementing Climate and Global Change Research: A Review of the Final U.S. Climate Change Science Program Strategic Plan. An advance copy is available to read online at the National Academies Press.


April 2004

Caribbean Planning Meeting for Geospatial Data Infrastructure

The Mesoamerican and Caribbean Geospatial Alliance (MAC-GA) is sponsoring a Caribbean Planning Meeting on May 27-28, 2004 at the University of the West Indies in Trinidad. This meeting is open to all parties interested in the application of geospatial data to sustainable development in the region. The aims of the meeting are to help set the future direction of the alliance, facilitate regionally consistent data standards, promote collaboration and identify priorities for donor activities. Major planning topics are: disaster preparedness; land use planning; tourism, conservation and climate change; agriculture and forestry development; donor and software/data perspectives.

Workshop on Geoscience Education and Cyberinfrastructure

The convergence of computation, information management, networking and intelligent sensors has great potential to transform educational and workforce development in conjunction with fundamental changes in research processes and methodologies. The Digital Library for Earth System Education, sponsored by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), convened a workshop on April 18 - 20, 2004 in Boulder, Colorado to address how cyberinfrastructure can shape the future of geoscience education. A sampling of themes are: individualized education; personalized information for students and teachers; networking; and collaboration at the local, regional and global levels. The workshop website provides background information, including

  • Report of the NSF Blue-Ribbon Advisory Panel on Cyberinfrastructure;
  • Cyberinfrastructure for Environmental Research and Education;
  • National Science Board report on Science and Engineering Infrastructure for the 21st Century.


March 2004

State of the Planet 2004 Conference

The Earth Institute at Columbia University in New York City will convene the third biennial State of the Planet Conference on March 29-30, 2004. This conference will examine global energy, food, water and health issues. The overarching theme is that of mobilizing the sciences to fight global poverty. State of the Planet 2004 will deliver recommendations on investment for basic human needs worldwide.

Columbia University is also actively engaged in the UN MIllenium Project more generally. The aim of this project is to develop a plan to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, which are set targets for reducing poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy, environmental degradation and discrimination against women by 2015.

Information Systems and Disaster Risk Reduction

Disaster risk reduction begins with information access. Therefore exchange of information and communication practices are critical for effective disaster risk reduction. New technologies can aid in the provision of local risk mapping to meet community needs, public access information portals, and other facilities enabling exchange across communities or countries. Remote sensing technology and geographic information systems are being used more often to present hazard vulnerabilities and risks. A background report from the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction was presented to the World Summit on the Information Society held in Geneva in December 2003.

February 2004

Report Available for Meeting on Human Dimensions of Global Environmental Change

The Open Meeting on Human Dimensions of Global Environmental Change was held in Montreal, Canada, 16 - 18 October 2003. A report on the plenary sessions and selected panels is now available as is the complete program. It is possible to search the abstracts by subject. In some instances, full papers may be downloaded. Major themes are poverty, environment and development. The sessions include early warning and preparedness, climate change and agriculture, the millennium ecosystem assessment and vulnerability to climate change. Papers from the 2001 meeting may also be downloaded.

Call for Participation in University Earth System Science Education Program

ESSE21 is a program for College and University Earth System Science Education for the 21st Century. ESSE 21 is a collaborative education program offering small grants to engage a diverse and interdisciplinary community of faculty and scientists in the development of courses, curricula and degree programs and sharing of learning resources focused on the fundamental understanding and application of the Earth system for the undergraduate and graduate classroom and laboratory. ESSE 21 supports exchanges and collaborations among faculty and scientists within and among majority/minority educational institutions, and with NASA programs and scientists.

Proposals are now being solicited to join the third cadre of ESSE 21 participants who will begin efforts in the second semester of the 2004/05 academic year. Two kinds of proposals are solicited:

1) Proposals from U.S. academic institutions and their partners seeking funding to form interdisciplinary teams within or among colleges and universities for the purpose of creating and implementing learning resources, courses, curricula and degree programs supporting Earth system science education in the undergraduate classroom and laboratory. Proposals may request up to $35K/year for each of two years and are due April 1, 2004. [Letters of intent are requested by February 27, 2004.]

2) Abbreviated letter proposals from non-U.S. institutions as well as from academic, government, industry and non-profit organizations seeking to participate as ESSE 21 Associates. Associates receive no direct funding from the Program, but are interested in Earth system science education and desire to contribute to and benefit from the ESSE 21 community by formally participating in team meetings, workshops, and other ESSE 21 activities. Proposals to become Associates may be submitted at any time.

January 2004

Methods of Assessing Human Health Vulnerability and Public Health Adaptation to Climate Change

The World Health Organization has published a report on methods of assessing human health vulnerability and public health adaptation to climate change. This report aims to address the need to develop capacity to undertake national assessments of the potential health effects of climate variability and change, taking into account vulnerable populations and groups as well as interventions that could be implemented to reduce the burden of disease. The analysis considers several health issues: direct effects of heat and heat waves; air pollution; disasters: floods and windstorms; vector-borne diseases; waterborne and foodborne diarrheal diseases; stratospheric ozone depletion; and food security.

This report is the first in a series on Health and Global Environmental Change by the WHO Regional Office for Europe in collaboration with the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environment Programme and supported by Health Canada. Its lead authors are Sari Kovats, Kristie L. Ebi and Bettina Menne.

Newsletter on Spatial Data Infrastructure for Latin America and the Caribbean

Spatial Data Infrastructure for Latin America and the Caribbean (SDI-LAC) is a free electronic newsletter for people interested in GIS, remote sensing, and data management issues in Latin America and the Caribbean. It aims to raise awareness and provide useful information to strengthen national SDI initiatives and support synchronization of regional efforts. The newsletter is sponsored and prepared by the Global Spatial Data Infrastructure.

Vol. 1, No. 1 for January 2004 is now online.


December 2003

Interamerican Workshop on Remote Sensing and Infectious Disease Control

The Interamerican Workshop on the Use of Remote Sensing to Control Infectious Diseases was held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on November 19-21, 2003. Its sponsors were the U.S. Department of State, the Interamerican Institute for Global Change Research (IAI) and the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (FIOCRUZ). Its objective was to demonstrate the possibilities of remote sensing technologies in the study and control of infectious diseases. Land cover studies and meteorological data were the remote sensing data of primary interest. The regional focus was the Americas.

The workshop concluded that remote sensing technologies have demonstrated value in research, but that a large gap remains between research use and operational use in disease control. Specific health problems, such as dengue, may provide the incentive for countries to geocode epidemiological data and develop geospatial information infrastructure for public health. International networks can help to address the financial, logistical, organizational, educational and attitudinal barriers.

Program (.doc)
Printed Folder (.pdf)

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has established a list serve for the Interamerican Network of Remote Sensing and GIS in Public Health for Infectious Diseases Control. Their website has archives and information about joining.

Mesoamerican and Caribbean Geospatial Alliance

The Mesoamerican and Caribbean Geospatial Alliance (MACGA) is a project implemented by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) EROS Data Center (EDC) in cooperation with several partner organizations. MACGA strives to facilitate the development of spatial data, to promote efficient data management, to support data access and dissemination, and to encourage the development of geospatial applications in the regions of Mesoamerica and the Caribbean.

The MACGA project features an ambitious capacity-building program. The first technical workshop on spatial data technologies was held in Panama in November 2003. The second technical workshop will be held for Caribbean participants in April 2004.


November 2003

Planning Underway for Comprehensive and Coordinated Earth Observation Systems

The ad hoc Group on Earth Observations (GEO) seeks to improve the coordination of strategies and systems for observations of the Earth and to identify measures to minimize data gaps. The goal is to move toward a comprehensive, coordinated, and sustained Earth observation system or systems. The GEO is preparing a 10-year implementation plan using the work of five subgroups: 1) System Architecture; 2) User Requirements and Outreach; 3) Data Utilization; 4) Capacity Building; and 5) International Cooperation.

The planning covers all aspects of Earth observations -- atmosphere, oceans, land, ecosystems -- and sensing platforms that may be in situ, airborne or space-borne. The uses are for climate, weather, natural hazards, living resources, and related applications of national and international priority.

Member countries in the Americas are Argentina, Belize, Brazil, Canada, Mexico, and the United States. The Central American Commission for the Environment and Development (SICA/CCAD) is also a regional participant.

New Book on Climate and Water Transboundary Challenges in the Americas

Climate and Water: Transboundary Challenges in the Americas (Diaz HF, Morehouse BJ, eds. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2003) explores some of the ways that climate, hydrology, and water resource management converge at the borders between jurisdictions and countries in the western Hemisphere. The book is unique in focusing on case studies of climate-hydrology-water resource management in diverse contexts in South, Central, and North America. The book is singular in highlighting important problems arising from the very existence of boundaries drawn and defined by society. Addressing such problems takes on increasing urgency as the world becomes ever more interconnected and interdependent.

Target groups for this book include water resource managers and decision makers at levels from the international to the local; scientists involved in interdisciplinary studies of basic and applied climatology, hydrology, and environmental studies; and readers specializing in institutional analyses, including transboundary water law, policy analysis and risk assessment. The book is also a useful text for college classes addressing natural resources management in general and the transfer of scientific knowledge to society.

Editor Henry Diaz and contributor German Poveda are members of this collaborative research network.

For more information on international freshwater issues, visit:

October 2003

Announcing CHIEX Update E-Mail Service

CHIEX Update is a brief e-mail newsletter designed to inform interested members in the scientific and professional communities about updates on the Climate and Health Information Exchange (CHIEX) ( The frequency of messages is about once or twice a month.

Individuals can subscribe or unsubscribe using the instructions shown below.

Do you want to add your name to the CHIEX Update list? Send e-mail:
Subject: subscribe

Do you want to remove your name from the CHIEX Update list? Send e-mail:
Subject: unsubscribe

Anyone experiencing technical difficulties should contact:

Three New Publications on Climate, Ecosystems, Disasters and Health

  • Climate Change and Human Health: Risks and Responses (edited by A.J. McMichael et al.)

This volume has been published by the World Health Organization (WHO) under the auspices of the Interagency Network on Climate and Human Health formed by the WHO, the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environment Programme. It seeks to describe the context and process of global climate change, its actual or likely impacts on health, and how human societies and their governments should respond.

Book Flyer (399 kb)
Book Order Form (1.24 mb)
Book Summary (1.50 mb)

  • Health: An Ecosystem Approach (by Jean Lebel)

This book has been published by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) of Canada. It describes the basis of the Ecohealth approach, which recognizes the inextricable links between humans and their biophysical, social and economic environments. Look under Publications in the IDRC Network.

  • Reducing Disaster Vulnerability Through Science and Technology (Subcommittee on Disaster Reduction)

This report has been published by the U.S. National Science and Technology Council's Committee on Environment and Natural Resources. This report shows how advances in science and technology are improving the ability to prevent hazards from becoming disasters. It covers many types of disasters, such as hurricanes, earthquakes, disease epidemics and critical infrastructure threats. (881 kb)

September 2003

Conference/Workshop on Climate and Health in the Caribbean: Report Available

A report is now available on the conference/workshop on climate and health in the Caribbean that was held in Barbados in 2002. This report is the product of a collaboration led by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). The full text is online.

Major health issues highlighted were vector-borne diseases (dengue, malaria), waterborne diseases, heat stress, asthma, disaster response to climate and weather phenomena, and toxins in fish. CRN (collaborative research network) members participated in the event. Joan L. Aron was the PAHO Technical Coordinator and is the lead editor of the report. Tony Chen, Roger Pulwarty, Sam Rawlins and Guillermo Rua were conference speakers.

See CHIEX Publications for 2003 under Aron, Corvalán, Philippeaux. There are two entries -- one in English and one in Spanish.

For additional information, see WHO and NOAA below:

Climatic Trends in High Elevation Regions

A special volume of the journal Climatic Change has been published on the subject of "Climate variability and change in high elevation regions: Past, Present & Future" edited by Henry F. Diaz, a member of this collaborative research network (CRN). The issue was also published as a book by Kluwer Academic Publishers.

The world's mountain systems, including the people in them, have gained international attention in the last few decades. The United Nations' International Year of Mountains-2002 can be regarded as the culmination of a long process involving research, development of research networks, a greater awareness by various sectors of society of the critical importance of mountain regions for a sustainable future, and recognition of that fact by policy makers.

This volume reviews recent climatic trends in high elevation regions of the world, assessing the reliability of various environmental indicators that can be used for monitoring climatic change, and assessing whether physical impacts of climatic change in high elevation areas are becoming evident. It discusses a range of monitoring strategies needed to observe and to understand the nature of such changes.

Climatic Change (July 2003, Volume 59, Issue 1-2)

International Year of Mountains 2002

August 2003

New Health Library for Disasters from WHO/PAHO

The third edition of the Health Library for Disasters is now available. This work is the product of a collaboration led by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). This electronic collection contains more than 500 technical and scientific documents on disaster reduction and public health related to emergencies and humanitarian assistance. This collection covers topics such as the health of displaced populations and communicable diseases. The library may be searched by topics, titles, organizations or keywords.

See also the disaster response programs at WHO and PAHO.

Global Forum on Oceans, Coasts and Islands

The Global Forum on Oceans, Coasts and Islands continues the work of the World Summit on Sustainable Development (2002) for issues related to oceans, coasts and islands. The Global Forum focuses on the health and condition of marine ecosystems and on the well-being of coastal communities. Half the world's population lives near coasts and small island developing states are especially dependent upon the oceans. Regular updates may be found in the newsletter produced by the Global Forum.

July 2003

IDRC Forum on Ecosystem Approaches to Human Health

From 18 to 23 of May 2003, the International Development Research Centre (IDRC, Canada) organized the INTERNATIONAL FORUM ON ECOSYSTEM APPROACHES TO HUMAN HEALTH in Montreal and a panel on infectious diseases was held on Wednesday, May 21, sponsored by the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MEA). Four lead authors / coordinating lead authors of the MEA participated: Jonathan Patz (Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health) as coordinator of the panel and three as presenters: Ulisses Confalonieri (FIOCRUZ, Brazil) on "Land Use Changes and Health in the Brazilian Amazon"; Peter Daszak (Consortium for Conservation Medicine) on "The Emergence of a New lethal paramyxovirus in Australia and Malaysia"; and Madeleine Thompson (International Research Institute for Climate Prediction) on "Infectious Disease Transmission and Land Use Change in West Africa".

DIVERSITAS and IPCC Planning Activities in Global Change and Health

From February 27 to March 1, 2003, a scoping meeting was held at the headquarters of the International Council for Science (ICSU) in Paris, organized by its associated program DIVERSITAS on the theme "Global Environmental Change and Human Health". The meeting was co-chaired by Anthony McMichael (Australian National University) and Ulisses Confalonieri (FIOCRUZ, Brazil) and 28 participants from the health and global change communities attended. The outcome was a 32 page report that framed the issue of global change/health, drafted a science plan and proposed a new joint project within the Earth Systems Science Partnership (IGBP/DIVERSITAS/IHDP/WCRP). The report was approved by the ESSP board on June 3, 2003.

From June 19 to 21, 2003 the IPCC Working Group II (Impacts, Adaptation and Mitigation) organized a meeting at the Goddard Institute for Space Studies (New York City) on the theme "Detection and Attribution of Impacts due to Climate Change", as a preparation for the structuring of the outlines of the chapters for the next IPCC report (Fourth Assessment Report, to be released by 2007 and which will have about 800 pages). Each of the chapters were represented by two lead authors and the themes covered were: cryosphere; hydrology and extreme events; marine and terrestrial ecosystems; disasters; sea level rise and coastal zones, agriculture / forestry and human health. The latter was represented by Ulisses Confalonieri (FIOCRUZ, Brazil) and Jonathan Patz (Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health).

June 2003

U.S. to Host Earth Observation Summit in July

The U.S. will host an Earth Observation Summit on July 31, 2003 at the State Department in Washington, D.C. The purpose of the meeting is to obtain international support for building an Earth observation system that is international, comprehensive, integrated and sustained. Although existing systems have made great achievements, higher quality observations are needed to address environmental challenges of the 21st century, such as climate monitoring, disaster management support and sustainable development.

The summit website provides more information about the background and the agenda. Some information is available in French and Spanish as well as English.

SciDev.Net Launches Gateway for Science in Latin America and the Caribbean

SciDev.Net has launched a gateway to present news, views and information on science and technology in Latin America and the Caribbean. At the SciDev.Net website, click on the Regional Gateway for Latin America. This regional gateway is available in English, Spanish and Portuguese.

The need for such a network was articulated at a recent meeting in Brazil on Science, Communication and Society: The Latin American Experience. To read more about this meeting, consult SciDev.Net's news archive for an article entitled Media 'Vital' to Latin American Science. The article is dated May 20, 2003 and is available in English, Spanish and Portuguese.

The principal collaborators for the meeting were:

  • SciDev.Net -- a science and development network
  • BIREME -- the Pan American Health Organization's center for biomedical information
  • FIOCRUZ -- the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation


May 2003

CHIEX Announces New Online Forums on Climate and Health Issues

CHIEX announces new online forums on climate and health issues. The target audience is scientists and decision-makers who deal with problems related to climate and health. The primary geographic focus is on the tropical Americas, but the public dialogues include a global perspective.

Visit the Forums. One of the active forums seeks comments on applying concepts from a symposium on climate issues in the Asia-Pacific region (see other news story for May 2003). Another active forum invites suggestions for future discussion topics.

Enhancing Resilience to Climate and Extreme Events in the Asia-Pacific Region

The East-West Center and the Asian Disaster Preparedness Center organized a symposium on Climate and Extreme Events in the Asia-Pacific: Enhancing Resilience and Improving Decision-Making. The Symposium was held in Bangkok, Thailand during the week of March 17-21, 2003.

Over 80% of the world's climate-related disasters occur in Asia. The Symposium worked with the international development community to address this problem by integrating adaptation to climate variability and change with poverty reduction programs. A new concept of "climate risk management" is emerging.

The Symposium proceedings are online at the East-West Center.


April 2003

UNEP Publishes New Assessment of Environmental Effects of Ozone Depletion

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has published its 2002 assessment of the environmental effects of ozone depletion and its interactions with climate change. Its major findings on health impacts are:

  • Improved understanding of the mechanisms of action of UV-B radiation on eyes, skin, and the immune system.
  • Evidence from animal models that exposure to UV-B radiation can increase the incidence, severity, and duration of a variety of diseases.
  • Possible interactions between global climate change and stratospheric ozone depletion, such as the possibility that impaired immune systems could worsen the impact of a disease whose distribution has been shifted by climate change.

UNEP has also published a companion document on the 2002 scientific assessment of ozone depletion. Of note is a useful section with twenty questions and answers about the ozone layer. A separate synthesis document summarizes all of the UNEP ozone assessments for 2002.

The UNEP Ozone Secretariat has placed all of these reports online.

International Year of Freshwater 2003

The International Year of Freshwater 2003 is a time to focus on protecting and respecting water resources from the local to the global levels. The United Nations has published its first system-wide evaluation of global water resources -- Water for People, Water for Life.

According to the UN, some 6000 children die every day from diseases associated with lack of access to safe drinking water, inadequate sanitation, and poor hygiene. The World Health Organization has published a report on The Right to Water, which promotes water as a basic human right.

April 7, 2003 is World Health Day. This year's theme is Healthy Environments for Children. At the same time, the Pan American Health Organization is launching the first Health in the Americas Week.


March 2003

NRC Report Seeks Major Improvements in U.S. Climate Change Research Plan

The U.S. Climate Change Science Program (CCSP) draft plan lacks a clear guiding vision and does not sufficiently meet the needs of decision makers, according to a new report by the U.S. National Research Council (NRC). The NRC report will influence the revision of the CCSP plan.

Two serious gaps are of particular importance to climate and health issues:

  • Studying the effects of climate change on human societies and ecosystems.
  • Cooperating with other countries on research, observation networks, and future assessments.

The title of the NRC report is Planning Climate and Global Change Research: A Review of the Draft U.S. Climate Change Science Program Strategic Plan. A press release and a pre-publication copy of the report may be found at the National Academies Press.

U.S. - Mexico Dengue Outbreak Shows Effects of Lifestyle Differences

An outbreak of dengue in 1999 had differing impacts in the border towns of Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, Mexico and Laredo, Texas, United States, according to a U.S.-Mexican study led by Paul Reiter. The incidence of disease, measured by a serological survey, was higher in Nuevo Laredo, although the disease vector, Aedes aegypti, was more abundant in Laredo. The differences appear to be due to environmental factors that affect contact with mosquitoes, such as air-conditioning. The study concludes that the low prevalence of dengue in the U.S. is primarily due to economic, rather than climatic, factors.

The study report, Texas Lifestyle Limits Transmission of Dengue Virus, may be found in the January 2003 issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases.

February 2003

Latest Findings of CRN Climate and Health Research Projects

The collaborative research network (CRN) reported its latest findings on its climate and health research projects at a joint meeting of the Inter-American Institute (IAI) and the International Geosphere-Biosphere Program (IGBP) that was held in Mendoza, Argentina on January 27-28, 2003. Major findings are:

  • Characterization of a natural decrease in malaria incidence during ENSO event years in northern Amazonia, Brazil.
  • Development of a conceptual model of the social vulnerability of the population to the health impacts of climate variability in tropical America.
  • Temperature strongly affects the life cycle of Anopheles albimanus, a major malaria vector in the Americas.
  • Modelling efforts support the importance of temperature in explaining malaria incidence in Colombia.
  • Dengue epidemics in the Caribbean have a pronounced seasonality, peaking in the latter half of the calendar year.
  • Dengue epidemics in the Caribbean are more probable in an El Niño or El Niño + 1 year.
  • There appears to be a close association of Caribbean dengue epidemics with temperature.
  • Preliminary analysis (vector control variables not included) shows an association between malaria and precipitation in Mexico that is stronger than the association with temperature.
  • Important oubreaks of dengue fever were observed during the 1997-1998 ENSO event in Mexico.
  • The incidence of malaria in Venezuela is positively correlated with mean relative humidity and monthly minimum temperature.

See CHIEX Presentations for 2003 for more details. Look under Confalonieri for a poster and presentation from the IAI-IGBP meeting in Mendoza, Argentina in January 2003.

AAAS Unveils Online Atlas of Population and Environment

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has released its updated atlas showing the impact of humans on the environment. A central theme is that humans have forced other species to adapt to human conditions or risk extinction.

The latest version of the atlas is freely accessible online.

January 2003

Millennium Ecosystem Assessment

The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) is a 4-year international process with the participation of nearly 600 natural and social scientists whose aims are to assess the current condition and historical trends in ecosystems and their contribution to human well-being; to identify options for conserving ecosystems; and to assess future scenarios for change in ecosystems. It is a process similar to the IPCC assessments and it is sponsored/supported by international agencies such as the GEF, the United Nations Foundation, the World Bank, the WHO and FAO.

The MA was established in response to requests from national governments through three international conventions: Biological Diversity; Convention to Combat Desertification; and the Convention on Wetlands. The working groups' reports include chapters on the impacts of ecosystem changes upon human health and on the role of ecosystems in atmospheric composition and climate regulation.

The MA project website shows its conceptual framework, updates on activities, ways to participate, and a variety of other information.

Weather Patterns in 2002 Reduced Size of Ozone Hole over South Pole

The size of the ozone hole in the stratosphere over the South Pole in 2002 was just over 15 million square kilometers, a dramatic reduction from the 26.5 million square kilometers reached in 2001. The 2001 size is larger than the area of North America. The 2002 size is a bit larger than the area of Antarctica.

In 2002, planetary-sized waves moved from the lower atmosphere to the upper atmosphere, causing the stratosphere to warm. These warmer temperatures reduced the growth of the ozone hole. Ozone-depleting chemicals still remain in the upper atmosphere, however. Depending on the weather, the hole in 2003 could be as large as the one in 2001. The size of the hole peaks every year during September/October, the austral spring.


December 2002

Climate Change May Be Abrupt

Recent scientific evidence shows that some major climatic changes have occurred over years rather than centuries or longer. Abrupt climate changes were especially common when the climate system was forced to change rapidly. Thus, greenhouse gas warming and other changes may increase the possibility of large, abrupt changes in climate.

This new paradigm of an abruptly changing climate system is little known in policy-making circles. A recent report "Abrupt Climate Change: Inevitable Surprises" proposes a research agenda to better understand the phenomenon and its associated impacts. The full text of the report may be read for free online at the U.S. National Academies Press.

Need for Better Environmental Health Monitoring

The Health and Environment Ministers of the Americas met in Ottawa, Canada in March 2002 to discuss monitoring and surveillance issues for the first time. They recognized the need not only to develop indicators for environment and public health but also to involve civil society in these efforts. This could lead to hemispheric cooperation on an unprecedented scale.

The Quebec City Consensus Conference on Environmental Health Indicators, held in October 2000 and recently published, is a first step toward that goal. The conference highlighted many links between environment and public health. For example, marine toxin poisonings are related to coastal development and demographic changes, while industrial activities have had a major impact on freshwater systems such as the Great Lakes (of North America). Members of this CRN (collaborative research network), Joan Aron and Bob Zimmerman, discussed the communication needs for translating indicator data into decisions, making reference to hurricanes, El Niño and glacial retreat in the Americas with a special focus on climate and cholera in Peru.

The abstracts of the conference presentations may be found at the Canadian Journal of Public Health. The full text of the entire conference report is available as a pdf file on CHIEX.

November 2002

Caribbean El Niño News Network (CENNN) Established

At the Preparing for El Niño workshop held by the International Research Institute for Climate Prediction (IRI) in April/May 2002 (, it was emphasized by the Caribbean representatives that there was a lack of comprehensive and centralized information on the impacts of the El Niño phenomenon on the Caribbean. To address this problem IRI agreed to support the establishment of a Caribbean El Niño News Network (CENNN), spearheaded by representatives from the Climate Studies Group of the University of the West Indies, Mona (CSGM), and supported by Dr. Barbara Carby of Jamaica's Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) and Mr. Trevor Falloon of the Sugar Industry Research Institute (SIRI).

To determine what climate-related events in the Caribbean are linked to the El Niño phenomenon, and to document them, information is being solicited on a monthly basis from correspondents around the region who have knowledge of the climate impacts in their respective countries. Information requested includes climatological means for each month, newspaper clippings or any other information on climate-related impacts which may be linked to El Niño, such as drought, floods, increases in vector-borne diseases, fish kills, bleaching of corals, changes in agricultural output, etc.

The information is collated and published in a website linked to the CSGM and a monthly newsletter, so that it will be available to researchers and interested parties throughout the region and around the globe, and through research, be of benefit to the entire region.

Planning Workshop for U.S. Climate Change Science Program

The U.S. Climate Change Science Program, which integrates federal research on global change and climate change, is holding a planning workshop from December 3 to 5, 2002 in Washington, DC to receive comments on its Strategic Plan for the combined U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) and Climate Change Research Initiative (CCRI). The draft plan is available for review online. Comments will be accepted until January 13, 2003. A final version of the plan will be published in April 2003. The emphasis is on the development of short-term (2 to 5 years) products to support climate change policy and resource management decision-making.

October 2002

Climate Outlook Forum in Ecuador

CLIMATE OUTLOOK FORUM - FORO DE VARIABILIDAD CLIMATICA, November 11 -13, 2002, Guayaquil, Ecuador.


MAIN OBJECTIVE: to provide an analysis of current ocean-atmosphere conditions in the equatorial Pacific and its potential impacts on important socio-economic sectors of the west coast of South America.

POTENTIAL PARTICIPANTS: researchers from ocean-atmosphere sciences, agriculture, aquaculture and fisheries, human health and other social sectors impacted by climate variability and extreme climatic events.

Local Contact: José Luis Santos D.

P.O.BOX 09-01-5863
TELEFAX: 593-4-2-269760

Colombian Research Team Receives Honor for Study of Malaria Mosquito Vector

The Colombian research team in the CRN (collaborative research network) received Honorary Mention by the Colombian Entomological Society in July 2002 for their work on:

Efecto de la temperatura sobre el desarrollo de ovarios y el ciclo gonotrófico de Anopheles albimanus (Diptera: Culicidae) con relación al evento El Niño - Oscilación del Sur (ENOS). [The effect of temperature on ovarian development and the gonotrophic cycle of Anopheles albimanus (Diptera: Culicidae) in relation to the El Niño - Southern Oscillation (ENSO) event.]

For more information, consult the description of the Colombian project in the Research section of this site.

September 2002

Announcing New Monthly Service

CHIEX announces a new monthly service that offers brief reports on climate and health. The target audience is scientists and decision-makers who deal with issues of climate and health. The primary geographic focus is on the tropical Americas but the service includes a global perspective.

CRN (collaborative research network) members provide information and commentary about meetings, scientific findings and noteworthy events pertaining to climate and health.

Conference / Workshop on Climate and Health in the Caribbean

The Pan American Health Organization / World Health Organization (PAHO / WHO) organized a conference and workshop on climate variability and change and their health effects in the Caribbean (Barbados, May 21-25, 2002). Major health issues highlighted were vector-borne diseases (dengue, malaria), waterborne diseases, heat stress, asthma, disaster response to climate and weather phenomena, and toxins in fish. The WHO report is due to appear in late 2002.

CRN (collaborative research network) members participated in the event. Joan L. Aron was the PAHO Technical Coordinator and is the lead editor of the WHO report. Tony Chen, Roger Pulwarty, Sam Rawlins and Guillermo Rua were conference speakers.


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