To date, identified UNEP hotspots include deforestation throughout South America;
the shrinking of glaciers in both polar and mountain areas (as well as glacial advance in Alaska); water diversion for irrigation on North and East Africa and West Asia; change to land appearance in North America and Australia due to resource extraction; and reforestation in Uganda and Niger.
The significance of satellite imagery as vital to ecosystem management decisions across national borders is evidenced in a case study on the decreasing water of Lake Chad between 1973 and 2012. The imagery showed how this negatively impacted agriculture and fishing in nearby countries such as Niger, Nigeria, Chad, and Cameroon.
Collaborations such as these are increasingly important models as the global community addresses health crises caused by extreme weather events and climate change. The Hondoras yesterday declared a state of emergency as half the country's municipalities reported cases of dengue fever, an illness which is spreading to regions were heat, moisture and precipitation patterns have shifted due to climactic changes. Studying hotspots like the Hondoras is helpful in the United States, for example, where dengue has now been identified in upwards of 28 states and is expected to increase significantly over the next 50 years.
Another reason this work is important to the United States was reflected in a post last week US Rates High on Climate Risk Index where Germanwatch listed the US as one of three out of 14 nations who experienced the most extreme meteorological events where the likelihood the events were caused by climate change was extremely high. The incident named was the 2011 drought in Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Louisiana.
NOAA last month reported on lessons learned from the 2011 drought, indicating that an adequate early warning system along with improved communication and collaboration among decision makers were tantamount to managing and improving impacts of future droughts.
And, in response to the President's Climate Action Plan, NOAA responded to the need for shorter-term drought forecasts with the announcement of the publication of monthly drought outlooks as an additional tool to assist in preparing communities to become more resilient and prepared to deal with extreme weather and climate. In addition to the weekly U.S. Drought Monitor the new publication is designed to "better capture the rapid onset of drought and drought improvement--information needed by our many stakeholders, especially farmers and ranchers who need timely and accurate information to make short-term decisions during growing season."
The monthly product is now possible due to improvements in weather and climate model forecasts and associated post-processing as reflected in extended range forecasts (e.g., 6-10 day, 8-14 day, and monthly forecasts). The product now includes keywords such as "persistence," "improvement," and "removal," which will help users more clearly understand predicted conditions in their region.
Global communications and modeling is enhanced by other improved technologies, such as
NOAA Weather Services's mega supercompter, which is capable of performing 213 million calculations each second. These capacities are instrumental in extended forecasting, improving early warning systems for collaborative modeling for both local and global sustainable development, and for creating the wherewithall to convert hotpots into points of hope.