International Research Institute for Climate Prediction

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THE INTERNATIONAL RESEARCH Institute for Climate Prediction (IRI) is based at Columbia University in New York City, New York. The IRI partners with numerous local and global organizations, including the World Bank, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (UNFAO), the World Meteorological Organization, the U.S. Department of Energy, the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, and the National Center for Atmospheric Research, to provide accurate seasonal forecasts of climate patterns to communities around the globe. The IRI has five programs: Agriculture, Climate and Environment, Economics and Livelihoods, Health, and Water. These programs address the concerns of the global regions of Africa, Asia and the Pacific, and Latin America.

The Agriculture program focuses on the study of climate and its impact on agriculture. A large part of the Earth's population is what the IRI calls "poor and food-insecure," relying on rainfall for watering of their crops. Thus, understanding weather patterns and accurate predictions of weather, such as rainfall, could be of great benefit to these communities. In response to this potential benefit, the IRI works with countries to develop methods for food security, natural resource sustainability, and poverty reduction.

The Climate and Environment program focuses on providing accurate weather forecasts in enough time to allow a country to prepare for adverse conditions such as drought. According to the IRI, tropical climates have the most predictable weather patterns, and yet the societies inhabiting these climates are often the most susceptible to hardship during difficult weather. The principle behind the Climate and Environment program is that when a community has access to accurate seasonal weather information, it can better plan for, and allocate resources for, adverse conditions, as well as for optimal weather conditions.

The IRI's Economics and Livelihoods program focuses on the economic impact of the climate. Because residents of rural areas are often reliant on good weather to travel and to obtain necessary goods and services, such as clean water, nutritious food, and healthcare, the Economics and Livelihoods program aims to provide accurate climate predictions so people can best take advantage of, and invest in, a good growing season.

The Health program at the IRI recognizes the impact of climate on the health status of individuals and populations. Beyond stress from heat or cold, other illnesses are correlated with certain climate conditions. The WHO classifies Malaria, for example, as a "climate sensitive communicable disease," along with cholera. Accurate climate prediction could warn healthcare providers prior to a surge in climate sensitive diseases, communicable and non-communicable alike, and, thus, give them a chance to prepare proper treatments, potential preventative measures, and infrastructure to reduce the potential spread of such a disease.

Finally, the Water program investigates the effect of climate on availability of clean, fresh water to those who need it. Accurate seasonal climate predictions would assist countries and communities in developing plans for storage of water in times of plenty, and distribution of this stored water in times of drought or other adverse conditions. Addition ally, the IRI Water program advises communities in proper urban planning to best manage the risk of a water shortage.

The institute maintains several seminar series to share information and knowledge, and to keep its members up to date with late-breaking research and technology. A board of 12 people from different countries manages it. A board chair leads them. An International Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee (ISTAC) provides the board with scientific advice. ISTAC members represent all aspects of science and society. For example, an ISTAC member may be from government, a nongovernmental organization, academia, the private sector, or climate organizations from local to international levels.

sEE ALso: Columbia University; New York; World Health Organization.

BIBLIoGRAPHY: Steven Ackerman and J.A. Knox, Meteorology: Understanding the Atmosphere (Brooks Cole, 2006); Donald Ahrens, Meteorology Today: An Introduction to Weather, Climate, and the Environment (Brooks Cole, 2006); P. Martens and A.J. McMichael, Environmental Change, Climate and Health: Issues and Research Methods (Cambridge University Press, 2002); M.V.K. Sivakumar and James Hansen, eds., Climate Prediction and Agriculture: Advances and Challenges (Springer, 2007).

Claudia Winograd University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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