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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.
Indirect Sources of Insight into
Responses to Climate 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.
Beliefs About Weather and Climate
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).