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27 February 2014


Boost for International El Niño Research Centre


The Governing Board of the International Research Centre on El Niño Phenomenon (in Spanish Centro Internacional para la Investigación del Fenómeno de El Niño, or CIIFEN) has given its support to the growing contribution by the Ecuador-based centre to regional climate predictions and climate services in South America. The Governing Board of CIIFEN is composed by the Government of Ecuador, the national meteorological service of Spain- Agencia Estatal de Meteorología (AEMET)- and the U.N. International Strategy for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), being WMO and the Permanent Commission for the South Pacific permanent observers of the Board.

At the 8th meeting of the Governing Board on 24 February hosted by AEMET, in Madrid, WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud said CIIFEN’s achievements were “remarkable and of great service to the regional and international climate communities.”

“Since its establishment in 2003, CIIFEN has come a long way, affirming itself as an international centre of excellence and expertise that provides climate information to the countries of South America, in particular on El Niño/Southern Oscillation and its socioeconomic impacts,” said Mr Jarraud.

“El Niño and La Niña are crucial determinants of our climate; they cause serious social and economic impacts to many countries around the world,” Mr Jarraud told the meeting. “In the last thirty years there has been significant progress in observing, understanding and predicting this phenomenon. Yet scientific challenges remain.”

WMO issues consensus-based El Niño/La Niña Updates on a regular basis, to which CIIFEN actively contributes along with many other agencies and experts worldwide. In its most recent Update, WMO said that ENSO-neutral is considered the most likely scenario into to the April to June period, followed by roughly equal chances for neutral or weak El Niño during the third quarter of 2014. Since the dissipation of a La Niña event in April 2012, conditions have been neutral

AEMET President Miguel Ángel López, said his agency would keep working to strengthen the capacity of CIIFEN to study and understand the El Niño phenomenon and use the results to provide effective and efficient climate services by national meteorological and hydrological services as part of the Global Framework for Climate Services (GFCS).

Mr Jarraud said the sustained support from Spain and Ecuador, together with that of the U.N. International Strategy for Disaster Risk Reduction, has helped  CIIFEN take roots as a regional institution. CIIFEN has been coordinating the organization of the Western Coast of South America Climate Outlook Forum (WCSACOF) for the past more than a decade, with WMO’s co-sponsorship.  CIIFEN is currently in the demonstration phase of a project to become a WMO Regional Climate Centre for Western South America.

WMO is actively supporting the initiative of CIIFEN to organize this November in Guayaquil the Third International Conference on ENSO for “bridging the gaps between Global ENSO Science and regional process, extremes and impacts”. Outcomes of the conference will help inform the implementation of the GFCS in South America, given that El Niño has a major impact on the priority areas of the GFCS: agriculture and food security, disaster risk reduction, health and water.

The CIIFEN Board meeting in Madrid agreed to increase its collaboration with academia, in order to establish joint research teams with CIIFEN and universities on El Niño and climate and socio-economic issues.

El Niño refers to an abnormal warming of surface ocean waters in the eastern tropical Pacific, while La Niña is characterized by unusually cool ocean temperatures in the eastern equatorial Pacific. Both events can disrupt the normal patterns of tropical precipitation and atmospheric circulation, and so can contribute to droughts and flooding in different parts of the world. El Niño has a warming influence on average global temperatures, and La Niña has a cooling tendency. South America is one of the regions most affected.




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