Recognizing the Famine Early Warning Systems Network: Over 30 Years of Drought Early Warning Science Advances and Partnerships Promoting Global Food Security

Chris Funk Earth Resources Observation and Science Center, U.S. Geological Survey, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and Climate Hazards Center, University of California, Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, California

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Shraddhanand Shukla Climate Hazards Center, University of California, Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, California

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Wassila Mamadou Thiaw NOAA/Climate Prediction Center, College Park, Maryland

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James Rowland Earth Resources Observation and Science Center, U.S. Geological Survey, Sioux Falls, South Dakota

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Andrew Hoell Physical Sciences Division, NOAA/Earth System Research Laboratory, Boulder, Colorado

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Amy McNally NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland

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Gregory Husak Climate Hazards Center, University of California, Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, California

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Nicholas Novella NOAA/Climate Prediction Center, College Park, Maryland

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Michael Budde Earth Resources Observation and Science Center, U.S. Geological Survey, Sioux Falls, South Dakota

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Christa Peters-Lidard NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland

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Aklhalil Adoum Climate Hazards Center, University of California, Santa Barbara, and Famine Early Warning Systems Network, Santa Barbara, California

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Gideon Galu Climate Hazards Center, University of California, Santa Barbara, and Famine Early Warning Systems Network, Santa Barbara, California

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Diriba Korecha Climate Hazards Center, University of California, Santa Barbara, and Famine Early Warning Systems Network, Santa Barbara, California

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Tamuka Magadzire Climate Hazards Center, University of California, Santa Barbara, and Famine Early Warning Systems Network, Santa Barbara, California

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Mario Rodriguez Climate Hazards Center, University of California, Santa Barbara, and Famine Early Warning Systems Network, Santa Barbara, California

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Miliaritiana Robjhon NOAA/Climate Prediction Center, College Park, Maryland

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Endalkachew Bekele NOAA/Climate Prediction Center, College Park, Maryland

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Kristi Arsenault NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, and Science Applications International Corporation, Inc., Greenbelt, Maryland

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Pete Peterson Climate Hazards Center, University of California, Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, California

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Laura Harrison Climate Hazards Center, University of California, Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, California

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Steven Fuhrman NOAA/Climate Prediction Center, College Park, Maryland

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Frank Davenport Climate Hazards Center, University of California, Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, California

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Marty Landsfeld Climate Hazards Center, University of California, Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, California

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Diego Pedreros Earth Resources Observation and Science Center, U.S. Geological Survey, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and Climate Hazards Center, University of California, Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, California

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Jossy P. Jacob NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, and Science Applications International Corporation, Inc., Greenbelt, Maryland

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Curt Reynolds U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington, D.C.

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Inbal Becker-Reshef University of Maryland, College Park, College Park, Maryland

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James Verdin Office of Food for Peace, U.S. Agency for International Development, Washington, D.C.

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Abstract

On a planet with a population of more than 7 billion, how do we identify the millions of drought-afflicted people who face a real threat of livelihood disruption or death without humanitarian assistance? Typically, these people are poor and heavily dependent on rainfed agriculture and livestock. Most live in Africa, Central America, or Southwest Asia. When the rains fail, incomes diminish while food prices increase, cutting off the poorest (most often women and children) from access to adequate nutrition. As seen in Ethiopia in 1984 and Somalia in 2011, food shortages can lead to famine. Yet these slow-onset disasters also provide opportunities for effective intervention, as seen in Ethiopia in 2015 and Somalia in 2017. Since 1985, the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) has been providing evidence-based guidance for effective humanitarian relief efforts. FEWS NET depends on a Drought Early Warning System (DEWS) to help understand, monitor, model, and predict food insecurity. Here we provide an overview of FEWS NET’s DEWS using examples from recent climate extremes. While drought monitoring and prediction provides just one part of FEWS NET’s monitoring system, it draws from many disciplines—remote sensing, climate prediction, agroclimatic monitoring, and hydrologic modeling. Here we describe FEWS NET’s multiagency multidisciplinary DEWS and Food Security Outlooks. This DEWS uses diagnostic analyses to guide predictions. Midseason droughts are monitored using multiple cutting-edge Earth-observing systems. Crop and hydrologic models can translate these observations into impacts. The resulting information feeds into FEWS NET reports, helping to save lives by motivating and targeting timely humanitarian assistance.

© 2019 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Publisher’s Note: This article was modified on 25 June 2019 to acknowledge a funding grant.

CORRESPONDING AUTHOR: Chris Funk, cfunk@usgs.gov

A supplement to this article is available online (10.1175/BAMS-D-17-0233.2).

Abstract

On a planet with a population of more than 7 billion, how do we identify the millions of drought-afflicted people who face a real threat of livelihood disruption or death without humanitarian assistance? Typically, these people are poor and heavily dependent on rainfed agriculture and livestock. Most live in Africa, Central America, or Southwest Asia. When the rains fail, incomes diminish while food prices increase, cutting off the poorest (most often women and children) from access to adequate nutrition. As seen in Ethiopia in 1984 and Somalia in 2011, food shortages can lead to famine. Yet these slow-onset disasters also provide opportunities for effective intervention, as seen in Ethiopia in 2015 and Somalia in 2017. Since 1985, the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) has been providing evidence-based guidance for effective humanitarian relief efforts. FEWS NET depends on a Drought Early Warning System (DEWS) to help understand, monitor, model, and predict food insecurity. Here we provide an overview of FEWS NET’s DEWS using examples from recent climate extremes. While drought monitoring and prediction provides just one part of FEWS NET’s monitoring system, it draws from many disciplines—remote sensing, climate prediction, agroclimatic monitoring, and hydrologic modeling. Here we describe FEWS NET’s multiagency multidisciplinary DEWS and Food Security Outlooks. This DEWS uses diagnostic analyses to guide predictions. Midseason droughts are monitored using multiple cutting-edge Earth-observing systems. Crop and hydrologic models can translate these observations into impacts. The resulting information feeds into FEWS NET reports, helping to save lives by motivating and targeting timely humanitarian assistance.

© 2019 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Publisher’s Note: This article was modified on 25 June 2019 to acknowledge a funding grant.

CORRESPONDING AUTHOR: Chris Funk, cfunk@usgs.gov

A supplement to this article is available online (10.1175/BAMS-D-17-0233.2).

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