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Vol.25, No. 18 Mar. 31, 2000

Earth Institute Forges Partnership with African Meteorological Center for Climate Forecasting

By Kurt Sternlof

The International Research Institute for Climate Prediction of the Columbia Earth Institute has formalized its long-standing collaborative relationship with the African Centre of Meteorological Applications for Development (ACMAD) by signing a memorandum of understanding.

International Research Institute (IRI) Director Antonio Divino Moura and Executive Vice Provost Michael Crow signed the "agreement for scientific and technical cooperation" March 16th on behalf of the University. Signing for the Nigerian organization ACMAD were its Director General Mohammed Sadek Boulahya and Elhaj Idrissa Also, vice chair of its Board of Governors.

"This agreement provides IRI, the Earth Institute and Columbia University with a solid framework for collaboration with a distinguished African partner on climate and environmental issues of particular relevance on that continent," Crow said.

"We now have a truly symbiotic relationship that will enable us to offer the climate-forecasting expertise assembled at IRI to countries that need it most," Moura said.

"Seasonal to interannual climate fluctuations can and do produce devastating impacts on public health, agriculture and water resources in many African nations," Moura said. "But learning to apply our growing forecasting capabilities effectively is no trivial challenge. In order to put these new climate products to use improving people's lives, we have to make them socially and culturally relevant and palatable. That is why this partnership with ACMAD is so important."

Sponsored by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, ACMAD operates under a mandate to enhance the "socio-economic welfare of African countries through the use of meteorological/climatological products and assistance systems that promote sustainable development" by disseminating technical information tailored to the needs of its member nations.

The IRI is an important international player in the production and dissemination of useful climate information.

In addition to its quarterly Global Net Assessment Forecasts, which provide regional estimates of expected departures from normal temperatures and precipitation, IRI publishes Extreme Event Forecasts that identify those areas likely to experience climate extremes. Together these and other products form the basis for international climate planning, as well as a departure point for developing regionally appropriate response plans.

The collaboration between IRI and ACMAD began informally in 1993, when Boulahya and other African scientists took part in the workshops of IRI's pilot phase held at the Lamont-Doherty campus in Palisades , N.Y. Since then, the organizations have jointly sponsored two major two-month training courses in Africa . "Practical Applications of Climate Prediction and Decision-making in Agriculture and Water Resources Management in Africa " was held in Niamey , Niger during summer 1997. "Climate Prediction and Disease/Health in Africa " was held in the Republic of Mali during spring 1999.