International Strategy for Disaster Reduction
Latin America and the Caribbean   

Newsletter ISDR Inform - Latin America and the Caribbean
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Newsletter for Latin America and the Caribbean        Inssue No. 15, 1999


The El Niño (ENSO) Phenomenon, a Proposal from Ecuador

The first intergovern-mental meeting on the 1997-1998 El Niño phenomenon was held in Guayaquil, Ecuador, 9-13 November 1998. On the basis of the Inter-Agency Task Force created in response to Resolution 52/200 in 1997, coordinated by the IDNDR Secretariat, this exchange of local, national and international experiences in the scientific and socioeconomic fields encouraged the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and its partner organizations to prepare a Retrospective on El Niño 1997-98. At the same time, the government of Ecuador offered to carry out a feasibility study on the possibility of establishing a regional or international centre for the study of the El Niño Phenomenon in Guayaquil.

The 1997-1998 experience, presented during the Guayaquil meeting, the IDNDR Hemispheric Meeting and other forums, highlighted once more the devastating effect of the extreme climatic conditions associated with ENSO on the economic development of Third World nations. A study by Munich Reinsurance estimated the economic losses of the four countries most affected at anywhere from 1.7% of GNP in El Salvador to 11% in Ecuador. Participants agreed on the need to reinforce climate monitoring, improve forecasting and early warning systems, build capacity and improve access to information tailored to specific sectors.

Attendees also learned about a feasilibity study for the creation of an El Niño Centre in Guayaquil. The study was carried out by a WMO technical mission and presented to the UN General Assembly in November 1999; a resolution was adopted urging the UN Secretary General to provide the necessary support for its implementation. The government of Ecuador expressed its willingness to provide the main funding for staff and maintenance costs.

The study claimed,

It is urgent to establish a centre to study the ENSO phenomenon and the application of forecasting techniques primarily for the Latin American region, which would work in close coordination with global centres and other regional centres.

Some of the information products of the Centre would be the following:

  • Research findings using appropriate techniques that have been adapted to the region.
  • Research on the sensitivity of the various socioeconomic sectors to climate changes.
  • The permanent updating of assessments concerning the occurrence of climatic extremes to guide the design of infrastructure, the cost of insuring it, etc.
  • Regional projections on the state of ENSO and its implications within a three-to-six month period.
  • Advise and monthly alerts aimed at general users.
  • Advise and monthly alerts aimed at specific sectors.

The study reco-mmended that the Centre establish formal institutional arrangements with national me-teorological and hydrological orga-nizations and coordinate its efforts with those of IDNDR-ISDR (CRID), UNDP, PAHO/WHO, WMO and others that supply infor-mation and tech-nical advise on risk prevention, preparedness and reduction.

For more information, please contact:
Ministry of Foreign Relations, Ecuador,
Fabián Paliz
Tel (593-2) 455-191