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NCAR News Release

2003-14 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 7, 2003

Bridging the Haves and Have-nots of Climate Science

EGS Town-hall Discussion to Assess Information Divide


David Hosansky
UCAR Communications
Telephone: (303) 497-8611
E-mail: hosansky@ucar.edu

NICE, France—Weather forecasters in Uganda rely on grainy satellite photos from neighboring countries as their only prediction tools. When massive thunderstorms form upwind in the tropics and head toward the area, Ugandans get very little warning. This is just one example of the information divide in the climate sciences between developing and developed nations.

Andrew Gettelman of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and his German colleague, Gerd Hartmann of the Max Planck Institute for Aeronomy, will monitor a town-hall discussion at the annual European Geophysical Society meeting in Nice to assess the information divide and brainstorm ways to bridge it.

"The information divide mirrors the increasing ‘digital divide’ between wealthy and poor countries," Gettelman says. "There are significant negative impacts on the abilities of developing countries to predict and respond to weather, climate, and extreme events."

Gettelman lists several obstacles that prevent scientists in developing nations from using climate and meteorology forecasts and analyzing climate variability. The scientists might not have adequate tools, ranging from electronic teaching aids to mere phone lines and photocopy machines. They might lack access to research articles, data, forecasts, and instructional materials. Communication between scientists may be limited.

As a result, climate observing systems suffer, and local knowledge and expertise are lost from the global knowledge base, Gettelman says. The key to preventing this is collaboration.

"Collaboration is the most effective way that people in the developing world gain access to methodology and new ways of doing things," Gettelman says. "In many cases it’s a lifeline for people."

About the presenter: Andrew Gettelman is a project scientist in the Atmospheric Chemistry Division at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. While a postdoctoral researcher in NCAR’s Advanced Study Program, he conducted a survey of scientists in developing nations to better understand barriers to information exchange in the fields of meteorology and climatology.

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