Whether dealing with slow-onset drought or sudden coastal floods, improving community preparedness measures and dissemination of early warnings in an effective manner are essential, noted a side event organized yesterday by WMO at the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction (Geneva, 9-13 May).
Drought: Managing hidden risks
The side event on Integrated Drought Risk Management featured case studies on droughts in the Horn of Africa and the Navajo reservation in Colorado, USA. The slow-onset nature of drought makes it difficult to measure hidden risk. People in drought-prone areas face growing extreme climatic risks, with limited economic options; drought spikes can, in some cases, influence GDP up to 50%. Globally, drought has been increasing for the last 25 years, according to the 2007 IPCC Fourth Assessment Report. Meanwhile, water available per capita on a regional basis is declining, and population is increasing, noted the Global Water Partnership. Drought is the main cause for 50% of emergency food distribution, according to the World Food Programme.
Local communities can prepare safety nets to get them through the worst periods of drought, such as by preparing wells in advance, or by planting drought-resistant fodder for livestock. But getting climate information to the farming and pastoral communities is a major challenge, requiring investments in dialogue between national meteorological and agricultural services, as well as with communities. The WMO roving seminars for farmers and the WMO Climate Outlook Forums were among the best practices cited to communicate climate information effectively. The complexity of communicating seasonal forecasts in easily understandable language to the user communities was also underlined. The quality of climate information is important in communicating probability; moreover, seasonal forecasts are a moving target due to climate change, affecting adaptation decisions at national and local levels.
WMO organized the event with the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
For more information on this event, and updates on other WMO activities at the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction, see