variety of biophysical and satellite measurements with information on health and nutrition, agricultural inputs and markets, and indicators of socioeconomic stress such as livestock and jewelry sales. These indicators are combined into country reports (e.g., for Ethiopia or Mali), which are published and distributed on a regular basis as the growing season progresses and used to plan any relief efforts. Local governments and nongovernmental organizations receive the reports as well as U.S. government and international agencies.
Several lessons can be drawn from the experience with famine early warning systems for the new developments in seasonal forecasting. These include the importance of combining environmental and social information to provide accurate assessments of agricultural production and other social impacts and the value of including local decision makers and nongovernmental organizations in the development and distribution of forecasts.
Although climate forecasts have been widely available in the United States for more than three decades from government, academic, and private sources, little is known about how they are used. Because of the limited amount of direct knowledge about responses to climate forecasts, a considerable portion of the knowledge relevant to providing people with improved climate forecast information is indirect. Some of this is in the form of general knowledge of how people think about weather and climate; some consists of knowledge about how human beings as individuals and in organizations acquire and process new information generally; some comes from knowledge about how people use information in possibly analogous situations.
Until recently, nonspecialists' beliefs about weather, climate, and climate changes and variations have been of interest mainly to academic anthropologists. Research on ethnometeorology, perceptions of weather, and hundreds of other topics in nonwestern societies can be examined through the web site of the Human Relations Area Files at Yale University (http://www.yale.edu/hraf/home.htm). Many traditional societies, including those in ENSO-sensitive areas, have long-standing and complex theories about weather and climate, some of which they use for forecasting deviations from seasonal averages (e.g., Antunez de Mayolo, 1981; Ramnath, 1988; Bharara and Seeland, 1994; Pepin, 1996; Eakin, 1998).