Experts to Meet at Mason on National Drought Policy

Posted: July 13, 2011 at 8:56 am

By Tara Laskowski

International experts will meet at Mason on July 14−15 to discuss national drought policy.

Twenty experts from national meteorological and hydrological services, climate and agricultural research institutes, universities and policy agencies are participating in this meeting, which was organized by Mason’s College of Science, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. National Drought Mitigation Center.

With reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 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, officials believe that a national drought policy is necessary.

“Drought is a serious problem in virtually all countries,” says Michel Jarraud, secretary-general of the WMO.

Some current examples include the following:

  • East Africa is enduring the 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 have been affected.
  • October 2010 through May 2011 was the driest eight-month stretch the state of Texas has experienced in its modern history, and the impact on agriculture is approaching $1.5 billion.

“Our ability to lessen or mitigate the impacts associated with drought is contingent on putting in place comprehensive national drought policies,” says Jarraud. “This expert meeting is an excellent first step in preparing a compendium on national drought policy.”

Jarraud says a coordinated national drought policy should include such elements as

  • Effective monitoring and early warning systems to deliver timely information to decision makers,
  • Effective impact assessment procedures,
  • Proactive risk management measures, and
  • Preparedness plans aimed at increasing the coping capacity and effective emergency response programs directed at reducing the impacts of drought.

Without a policy including these elements, “nations will continue to respond to drought in a reactive crisis-management mode,” Jarraud says.

“George Mason University recognizes the urgency of this international expert meeting and has a long-standing tradition of promoting science-based knowledge and actions to address climate-related issues,” says Roger Stough, Mason vice president for research and economic development and a workshop participant.

Stough continues: “We encourage institutions to proactively develop drought risk management plans and create ‘global centers of excellence’ in the fields of agricultural meteorology and climatology. This is just one of the global research and education initiatives Mason is undertaking to build depth and breadth in its efforts to internationalize the university’s approach and to broaden the participation of its faculty and students in global leadership projects.”

Other workshop participants representing Mason include John J. Qu, associate professor in the department of Geography and Geoinformation Science, and Thomas Lovejoy, University Professor in the Department of Environmental Science and Policy.


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