Man in a rice field

Helping those hardest hit

4 April 2013

The natural world and human population are affected by natural variations in climate — particularly extreme events. This vulnerability is increasing in some areas as the climate changes. The people that are likely to be hardest hit by climate change live in the least developed countries. That's why we are providing climate services in developing countries so they can plan and adapt for the future.

Few developing countries can conduct all the necessary climate change research on their own, as it requires significant computing capacity and human resources. Met Office expertise means that we can support the international community in ways beyond the weather forecasts that make us a household name.

Our skill in turning weather and climate science into services is recognised around the world. As the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) embarks on a Global Framework for Climate Services, we will share our knowledge and expertise with others.

The Met Office Hadley Centre already works with many countries - from helping build capacity to predict weather and climate change, to high-resolution regional modelling and developing adaptation strategies.

Building capacity

With a population that relies heavily on subsistence agriculture, Bangladesh is particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. The effects of climate change are already being experienced in the country, so it is essential for Bangladesh to develop adaptation strategies to cope.

The Capacity Building in Climate Modelling in Bangladesh project was a collaboration between the Department for International Development, the Met Office Hadley Centre and the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET).

The Bangladesh climate research community can now produce regional climate projections using regional climate models developed by the Met Office. It also provides a template for other developing countries to build technical capacity with the help of funding from international development organisations.

Assessing vulnerability

Another similar project involved working with The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) of India and the Government of Maharashtra, on a project called 'Assessing climate change vulnerabilities and adaptation strategies for Maharashtra'. It established how climate change may affect the state of Maharashtra and helped to develop ways of alleviating the impact on economy, society and people's lives.

Rising carbon dioxide concentrations mean that globally averaged temperatures are continuing to increase. For Maharashtra, studies consistently projected a temperature increase over the entire region for the monsoon season between 1.5 °C and 3 °C. Such temperatures could lead to severe drought, water scarcity, and reduced crop yield.

In addition to increasing temperatures, climate change is expected to alter global and regional precipitation patterns. Maharashtra's monsoon season from June to September is very important for agricultural productivity, water resources, and the health of Maharashtra's citizens. Any changes in the duration or intensity of this season could have strong impacts on Maharashtra's vulnerability to future climate change and is a key factor affecting future adaptation strategies.

Adaptation strategies

Although we expect the monsoon season to remain relatively unchanged, all model projections suggest an increase in the intensity of monsoon rainfall, particularly along coastlines, with only slight decreases in rainfall seen further inland. Strong rainfall increases could result in extreme flooding - drastically reducing the state's agricultural productivity and promoting waterborne diseases such as cholera.

Intense rainfall events are likely to extend further into the final months of the season. While the present day monsoon period produces maximum rainfall during July, our projections widen this maximum rainfall period to both July and August. With the heaviest monsoon rainfall lasting longer into the monsoon season, the threat of localised and severe flooding events is further intensified in a warmer future climate.

In both cases, before they could develop adaptation strategies, both Bangladesh and the Government of Maharashtra needed to have a more informed understanding of the climatic factors that influence human and natural systems in their respective regions; what controls these factors; how they could they be affected by climate change; and how those changes will affect food production or infrastructure.

There is an urgent need to improve resilience to climate-related hazards and better manage the risks and opportunities arising from climate variability and climate change. More research is now desperately needed for all developing countries vulnerable to climate change.

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