Climate Change, Drought, and El Nino

Climate Change
The Web site of the National Climate Data Center is the climate/weather researcher's Shangri-la. It includes data from thousands of weather stations around the world, as well as hundreds of images, numerous technical reports on extreme weather events, and lots of other climate/weather data.
The mission of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Climate Prediction Center is to watch, diagnose, and predict climate fluctuations in order to assist agencies both inside and outside the federal government in coping with such climate-related problems as food supply, energy allocation, water resources, and emergency management. The Center's Web site offers much information and many products in support of this mission, including a "U.S. Threats Assessment" page at the second URL. That page "is intended to provide emergency managers, planners, forecasters and the public advance notice of potential threats related to climate, weather and hydrologic events." It integrates existing NWS [National Weather Service] official medium- (3-5) day, extended- (6-10 day) and long- (monthly and seasonal) range forecasts, and hydrologic analyses and forecasts. The page includes North America maps showing projected temperature/wind, precipitation, and soil/wildfire anomalies, as well as other data, such as a table of rivers currently at or above flood stage.
This new Web site from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration aims to raise issue awareness, inform dialog, and support decision making regarding the Arctic climate and ecosystem. It shows the past and present state of the Arctic climate and ecosystem and presents data and information from reputable scientific sources with easy to read and understand narratives.
The National Center for Atmospheric Research Environmental and Societal Impacts Group is now a part of the Institute for the Study of Society and Environment. This web site features a number of weather-related resources for those interested in how climate affects ecosystems and society. The group manages several discussion lists and publishes on-line newsletters, including the ENSO Signal, which focuses on El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycle and its impacts on ecosystems and societies, and the Network Newsletter for people involved in climate impact assessment. To subscribe to the network newsletter mailing list, fill out the Web form at
The "Societal Aspects of Weather" Web site includes pages on such climate/weather phenomena as floods, El Nino, tornadoes, extreme temperature, lightning, hurricanes and tropical cyclones, and winter weather. Additionally, it offers pages covering impact statistics, emergency management, insurance, and weather policy.
Recognizing the problems posed by potential global climate change, in 1988 the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) established the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to assess the scientific, technical, and socioeconomic information available for understanding the risk posed by human-induced climate change. The panel has not carried out new research; it has based its assessment mainly on published and peer-reviewed scientific technical literature. The IPCC encompasses three working groups and a task force.
The U.S. National Assessment of the Potential Consequences of Climate Variability and Change, which contributed to the global assessment mentioned above, was established to provide a detailed understanding of the consequences of climate change for the nation and to examine possible coping mechanisms for adapting to such change. Conducted under the auspices of the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), the assessment has examined both regional and sectoral (economic, environmental, societal) issues in order to come up with a broad synthesis for the nation. The national assessment focuses on what is known about the potential consequences of climate variability and change for the United States over the next 25-30 years (roughly one generation) and also over the next 100 years. The final report of the National Assessment Synthesis Team, Climate Change Impacts on the United States: The Potential Consequences of Climate Variability and Change is available from this Web site, which also provides the more detailed reports from several of the studies focusing on specific regions and issues.
The International Research Institute (IRI) for Climate Prediction was established through a cooperative agreement between the NOAA Office of Global Programs and Columbia University. The IRI Web site posts the institute's news, upcoming events, and recently released products and publications. It also includes three principal sections:

  • Climate Information System (with pages entitled Digest, Forecasts, Monitoring, Regional Impacts, Data Library, and Research); and
  • Outreach (Training Program, Climate Dictionary, IRI Publications Meeting Archives).
The Climate Information System Forecasts page, at the first URL above, provides a seasonal climate forecast distilled from a variety of climate prediction tools, and, at the second URL, provides a series of global maps that illustrate the probabilities of seasonal temperature and precipitation anomalies associated with El Nino and La Nina. The user who wants to know, "How will El Nino (or La Nina) affect me?" can go to this page, enter a season, a location, and other information and receive a map that illustrates the probabilities of seasonal temperature and precipitation outcomes associated with El Nino and La Nina events. An in-depth explanation of the maps is included.
CLIVAR is an international research program on climate variability and predictability addressing such questions as: Will there be an El Nino next year? Will the next monsoon cause drought or flooding? What will the next European winter be like? Should we expect more extreme weather events? and How much will sea level rise? It is part of the wider World Climate Research Programme (WCRP). The CLIVAR web site provides background information about the program, recent news, descriptions of ongoing projects, publications, and much other information about the hazards associated with climate variability and change.
This Web site on global environmental change from the World Health Organization focuses on large-scale and global environmental hazards to human health, including climate change, stratospheric ozone depletion, loss of biodiversity, changes in hydrological systems and the supplies of freshwater, land degradation, and stresses on food-producing systems.
This site provides a remarkable map that illustrates the local consequences of global warming. Developed by the World Resources Institute, Union of Concerned Scientists, Environmental Defense Fund, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, U.S. Public Interest Research Group, and World Wildlife Fund, the map categorizes local events into "fingerprints" and "harbingers." Clicking on any of the indicated local sites provides information about what is happening and what could happen at that location due to global warming.
The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) hosts an interactive web feature entitled Confronting Climate Change in the Gulf Coast Region: Prospects for Sustaining our Ecological Heritage. The web site section contains a wealth of information on climate change, as well as an in-depth look at the potential impacts of climate change on Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. One of its features examines the water cycle and how humans interact with it in the Gulf Coast region. A second feature explores the extensive potential consequences of sea-level rise in a region comprised of flat topography. A final feature tells the stories of individual residents and visitors and how their daily lives may be impacted by climate change.
The National Center for Atmospheric Research, with funding from the U.S. Weather Research Program, has established the Societal Impacts Program to develop a dedicated focal point for gathering, assembling, coordinating, and synthesizing information on the societal impacts and economic benefits of weather information. This new site is a work-in-progress that currently includes program information as well as the preliminary framework for a Digital Library of Societal Impacts.

Pew Center on Global Climate Change
The Web site of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change includes sections on global warming basics and in-depth information, a policy center, "businesses leading the way," and "what's being done." The site also has a special section to examine the implications of the Kyoto Protocol's entry into force, including history, related issues, and reports and analyses.
The Science Policy Assessment and Research on Climate (SPARC) conducts research and assessments, outreach, and education aimed at helping climate science policies better support climate-related decision making in the face of fundamental and often irreducible uncertainties. It is a joint project of the University of Colorado's Center for Science and Policy Technology Research and the Arizona State University's Consortium for Science, Policy, and Outcomes and is sponsored by the National Science Foundation.
As part of its ongoing efforts to inform decision makers, the Climate Institute's features information about climate change, sea level rise, extreme weather, and more.
The goal of the Linking Climate Adaptation Network is to provide an accessible, useful, and vibrant forum for the exchange of research, policy, and experiences related to climate adaptation. This Web site includes a climate adaptation topic guide, news and events, and moderated online discussions.

Surviving Climate Change in Small Islands: A Guidebook (2005)
This guidebook was inspired by a collaborative project between the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research and the Cayman Islands’ Government Department of Environment, which later developed into a UK Overseas Territories capacity-building project. The first section examines the reasons for concern about climate change. The following sections explore understanding climate change risks, assessing vulnerability, and structuring, developing, and implementing a climate change adaptation strategy. Available free online.

Availability and Affordability of Insurance under Climate Change: A Growing Challenge for the U.S. (2005)
This paper was authored by a scientist, an insurance actuary and former regulator, and an insurance veteran. It explores the insurability of risks related to extreme weather events and climate change and ways in which insurance affordability and availability could be adversely impacted in the United States in the coming years. It includes examples where affordability and availability of insurance are already at risk from rising weather-related losses and how future financial exposure for insurers, governments, businesses, and consumers could worsen if current climate and business trends continue. Available free online from Ceres.

The National Drought Mitigation Center (NDMC) was created to help people and institutions develop and implement measures to reduce societal vulnerability to drought - focusing on prevention and risk management rather than crisis management. The NDMC site includes sections that describe the center; explain how and why to plan for drought; provide information about current forecasts, monitoring, and impacts (both for the U.S. and worldwide); present historic climate data; discuss the "Enigma of Drought" in depth and measures that have worked to alleviate drought impacts; offer directions for preparing a Drought Planner's Handbook; provide a directory of drought planners; and, of course, offer a list of other useful Internet sites. In 2000, the site developers added the "Drought Monitor" - - a comprehensive analysis of the current national situation. A joint effort of the USDA, NOAA/CPC, and the NDMC, and released each Thursday, the monitor reviews conditions across the country and provides an outlook for the coming weeks.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's "Drought Information Center" is "a roundup of the various NOAA Web sites and information on drought and climate conditions." It provides breaking news, including current drought assessments of various kinds; monthly roundups; and considerable background information, including sections entitled "All About Drought"; "Normal Precipitation for U.S. Stations"; "Billion Dollar Weather Disasters"; "All About Heat Waves"; "Fire Potential"; and other links to Web sites with information about drought.
This heat safety Web page from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration provides information about what actions to take to protect oneself, family, pets, and property against excessive heat and drought.
The mission of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration - Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences Climate Diagnostics Center (CDC) is to identify the nature and causes of climate variations on time scales ranging from a month to centuries and thus to predict climate variations on these time scales. The CDC provides several resources including its Map Room Weather Products (, Map Room Climate Products (, and Display and Analysis Web Pages for CDC Climate Data (

At the second URL above, the CDC offers a page entitled "Current and Anticipated Precipitation Anomalies over the U.S." that provides information on current and emerging drought situations in the U.S. The page includes maps and graphics showing where problems are occurring and other information and forecasts regarding developing precipitation anomalies.

At the third address, the site provides "El Nino/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) Information" covering such questions as What happens during an El Nino/La Nina cycle? What are the effects of El Nino/La Nina on climate and individual weather systems? What is the current state of El Nino/La Nina? Also included are FAQs, a glossary, other links and publications, forecasts and advisories, and educational resources.
The National Drought Policy Commission was established by the U.S. Congress to provide advice and recommendations on the creation of an integrated, coordinated federal policy that prepares for and responds to serious drought emergencies.
The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Office to Combat Desertification and Drought (UNSO) Dryland Web site provides information about the office as well as an overview of the major tools they use; a newsletter and list of publications available from UNSO; information about other successful projects, practices, and lessons learned; and a news service that distributes links to articles related to drought and desertification once a week.
The International Water Management Institute (IWMI) is a nonprofit scientific research organization that specializes in agricultural water use and integrated management of water and land resources. IWMI has launched a large-scale regional assessment across India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan in a common effort to find ways to mitigate the effects of recurrent droughts. The project has two principal aims: to review the current status of drought research and management in the region, and then identify gaps in order to develop interim recommendations to improve drought management for regional governments, relief agencies, and local communities.
This report, "Creating a Drought Early Warning System for the 21st Century: The National Integrated Drought Information System," is the first product to result from a partnership between the Western Governor's Association and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which was created to develop a vision and recommendations for establishing an improved drought monitoring and forecasting system.
The goal of the Linking Climate Adaptation Network is to provide an accessible, useful, and vibrant forum for the exchange of research, policy, and experiences related to climate adaptation. This Web site includes a climate adaptation topic guide, news and events, and moderated online discussions.
This test site developed by the United Nations Development Programme Drylands Development Center and the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction Africa is designed as a resource for drought reduction in Africa and includes discussion, lessons, and resources for planners, journalists, students, and others interested in drought and drylands issues.

El Nino
The Center for Ocean-Atmospheric Prediction Studies Library has posted a comprehensive online El Nino bibliography. The bibliography is searchable by author's name and can also be browsed page by page.
The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) Environmental and Societal Impacts Group regularly publishes ENSO Signal - a newsletter intended for those interested in the El Nino-Southern Oscillation cycle and its impacts on ecosystems and societies.
In the autumn of 2000, the United Nations (UN) released an international study - Lessons from the 1997-98 El Nino: Once Burned, Twice Shy?, which states that thousands of human casualties and tens of billions of dollars in economic damage will continue to befall the world's developing countries every two to seven years until an investment is made to improve forecasting and preparedness against El Nino. The study's findings highlight the need to undertake systematic long- term risk reduction activities, including better understanding of climate-related vulnerability through education and training. Consequently, the UN agencies are partnering with National Center for Atmospheric Research to develop a comprehensive program of "educating educators" in developing countries. The program will particularly address science, policy, and ethics related to climate change, variability, and extremes.
As mentioned above, the International Research Institute for Climate Prediction Web site provides a series of global maps that illustrate the probabilities of seasonal temperature and precipitation anomalies associated with El Nino and La Nina. The user who wants to know, "How will El Nino (or La Nina) affect me?" can go to this page, enter a season, a location, and other information and receive a map that illustrates the probabilities of seasonal temperature and precipitation outcomes associated with El Nino and La Nina events. An in-depth explanation of the maps is included.
The California Resources Agency California Environmental Resources Evaluation System (CERES) disseminates information and links people to information sources on a variety of environmental resource topics. The CERES El Nino section includes numerous links that provide information on everything from the physical phenomenon of El Nino to its potential economic impacts.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) provides this El Nino page, which provides both El Nino forecasts and status reports regarding current conditions, a "threats assessment" for the entire United States and individual states as well as information on El Nino preparedness. It includes sections entitled, "What is El Nino?," "What is La Nina?," and "What's Happening Today?." It also covers El Nino impacts regionally, nationally, and globally; provides profuse links to other research institutions and publications; and summarizes NOAA research on this phenomenon.
Similarly, NOAA's Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory El Nino Theme Page provides access to extensive distributed information related to the El Nino phenomenon. It covers current conditions and recent news releases, and also includes sections addressing: What is El Nino? What are the impacts of El Nino? What are the current El Nino forecasts? What is the latest El Nino data? What are some frequently asked questions? and, Where can I find more El Nino data and information? This site also provides numerous links to other El Nino information on the Web.
If it's not one thing, it's another . . . With the waning of El Nino comes the onset of La Nina - the cooling of eastern Pacific waters off the coast of South American - and with it, global meteorological consequences of many kinds. The Environmental and Societal Impacts group at NCAR has launched this La Nina Web page that consolidates and serves as an entry point to many of the other Internet sources of information on this phenomenon.