Developing nations lack advanced forecasting tools
Forecasters in Uganda rely on grainy satellite photos
from neighboring countries as their only weather prediction tools.
When massive thunderstorms form upwind in the tropics and head
toward the area, Ugandans get very little warning.
In Nepal, theres no functioning hydroelectric
forecasting system. Forecasters cant project stream flow
or get information for flood predictions.
And along the Mekong River, which starts in China
and flows through southeast Asia, different countries that all
rely on the rivers water dont have an effective regional
modeling system to share information.
These are just three examples of the information
divide in the climate sciences between developing and developed
The information divide mirrors the increasing
digital divide between wealthy and poor countries,
says Andrew Gettelman of the Atmospheric Chemistry Division. There
are significant negative impacts on the abilities of developing
countries to predict and respond to weather, climate, and extreme
Andrew and his German colleague, Gerd Hartmann
of the Max Planck Institute for Aeronomy, monitored a town hall
discussion at the annual European Geophysical Society meeting
last month in Nice, France, to assess the information divide and
brainstorm ways to bridge it.
While a postdoctoral researcher in NCARs
Advanced Study Program, Andrew conducted a survey of scientists
in developing nations to better understand barriers to information
exchange in the fields of meteorology and climatology. He pinpointed
different obstacles that prevent scientists in developing nations
from using climate and meteorology forecasts and from analyzing
climate variability. 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, Andrew says.
The key to preventing this is collaboration. Its
is the most effective way that people in the developing world
gain access to methodology and new ways of doing things,
Andrew explains. In many cases its a lifeline for
When collaboration does occur, however, its
often sporadic and on a project-by-project basis. And sometimes
theres a sharp difference between the goals of researchers
from different countries.
We have different needs and desires than
they do for some of the research, says Andrew, referring
to scientists in the developing world. They are more concerned
about weather, especially for agriculture, and were more
concerned about climate and climate change.
Even so, Andrew maintains that better weather and
climate analysis is a reasonable goal for forecasters in developing
You dont necessarily need special computers,
he says. You just need the right software and need to know
how to use it.
in this issue:
the midnight hour: BAMEX takes aim at dangerous night storms
long riders: How some staffers cope with epic commutes
finds lower atmosphere warming
bridges for Latina students
Question: Publications on the Web