World's scientists meet to plan drought action

Friday 15th Jul 2011 by theWeather Club

With the tragic consequences of drought unfolding in the Horn of Africa, the problem of how we cope - or do not - with large scale drought is top if the agenda yet again. With the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) stating that the world has been more drought-prone during the past 25 years, and that climate projections indicate an increased frequency of droughts in the future, some kind of concerted action is seen as increasingly necessary.

Scientists and policy makers from around the world have gathered at George Mason University in Virginia USA, for the ‘Expert Meeting on the Preparation of a Compendium on National Drought Policy’ from 14th to 15th July 2011. The meeting is being jointly organised by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the George Mason University’s College of Science (COS), the US National Drought Mitigation Centre (NDMC) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

 “Drought is a serious problem in many countries. Without a coordinated, national drought policy that includes elements such as effective monitoring and early warning systems to deliver timely information to decision makers; effective impact assessment procedures; pro-active risk management measures; preparedness plans aimed at increasing the coping capacity; and effective emergency response programs directed at reducing the impacts of drought; nations will continue to respond to drought in a reactive, crisis management mode”, said, Mr Michel Jarraud, Secretary-General of the WMO. "Our ability to lessen or mitigate the impacts associated with drought is contingent on putting in place comprehensive national drought policies. This expert meeting is an excellent first step in preparing a Compendium on National Drought Policy.”

Currently East Africa is enduring its worst drought in 60 years. Ten million people are at risk after the worst drought in decades hit large areas of Somalia, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Kenya. A severe drought along the Yangtze River region in central China has left 315,000 people short of drinking water, and more than two million acres of farmland has been affected. This past October through May in Texas, USA, was the driest eight-month stretch the state has experienced in its modern history, and the impact on agriculture is approaching $1.5 billion