Taking the PULSE of Amazonia’s health

Brazilian scientists working with counterparts funded by Britain’s Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), and the UK government’s Met Office, have developed a web-based risk management tool able to plot and predict the complex interactions between climate change, environmental events, and human health impacts.

A partly working model of the software developed through this initiative can be seen on the UK Met Office website by clicking here. It covers all of Brazil and part of Amazonia in close-up.

The web tool shows variations in temperature, rainfall, river levels, human-induced forest fire and disease across Amazonia, in terms of both past, present and future. It will assess Impacts and Vulnerability to Climate Change in Brazil, based on state-of-the-art climate change projections from the regional Eta model and the MBSCG global model. The climate and environmental data will be delivered by INPE of Brazil, while the health data will be delivered by Federal University of Minas Gerais

PULSE covers key meteo data, past and future

PULSE covers key meteo data, past and future

The tool is already being deployed in the Brazilian Amazon state of Acre, made famous in the 1980s as the home of environmental activist Chico Mendes and now something of a test-bed for tropical sustainability projects. You can read a (Portuguese) report of the project by clicking here.

The tool named PULSE (Platform for Understanding Long-term Sustainability of Ecosystems) is already at work analysing, visualizing and understanding the interactions between climate, ecosystems and human health in Amazonia, where it will help policymakers, academics, businesses and the general public to formulate responses to environmental change.

For instance, the software’s predictive modelling can show how outbreaks of dengue fever, malaria, leptospirosis and other inset-borne diseases in the human population of Amazonia, are a direct consequence of seasonal changes to rainfall, humidity and river levels.

Flooding  brings disease in its wake

Flooding brings disease in its wake

With a database already covering the period from 1950-2012, PULSE also has a predictive capability based on data from the IPCC’s latest report and forecast changes up to the year 2100. This forecasts a mean temperature rise of 1.1 °C – 2.6 °C and rising sea levels of 32 – 63 centimetres, the latter a critical statistic in low-lying Amazonia.

With the help of PULSE, scientists will be able to see for the first time the pattern and progression behind climatic change, providing answers to those in the “climate skeptic” community who regularly insist that extreme events are just “one-off” anomalies. Local officials in Acre told reporters from a local news agency the tool will provide them with empirical data for long-term planning.

PULSE will support other major climate change studies taking place elsewhere in the Amazon, notably the multinational GOAmazon project near Manaus. You can read about this by clicking here.

PULSE was developed through a long-term cooperation with scientists led by Peter Cox at Exeter University in the UK, and draws on the wider policy frameworks for monitoring ecosystem change set up by NERC. You can read about NERC’s Biodiversity and Ecosystem Service Sustainability (BESS) Science Plan 2011‐2017.

You can read about the UK’s £240,000 programme which runs from 2012-2015, and the scientists involved, by clicking here. On the Brazilian side the programme is financed by FAPESP, the São Paulo Research Foundation and led by the Peruvian-born scientist Jose Antonio Marengo Orsini from the INPE space research establishment. You can read the project profile here.

Mapping  incidence of climate-influenced diseases across Brazil

Mapping incidence of climate-influenced diseases across Brazil

PULSE will support collaboration between UK Universities, the Met Office, FIOCRUZ – Brazil, the University of Minas Gerais – Brazil, the National Institute for Space Research (INPE) – Brazil, Brazilian State Governments and the wider international community on topics related to the impact of climate extremes on ecosystem and human health and potential mitigation and adaptation strategies.

The database – earlier parts of which are based not on empirical observation from Amazonia but mathematical models developed in the UK – will model recent climate extremes and their impacts on ecosystems and human health to establish the relationships between climatic variables and environmental and human health data.

Pulse flood 2

Climate modelling will enhance human development efforts

PULSE will provide future climate change projections for Amazonia using state-of-the-art regional (Eta) and global climate models (MBSCG and UK Met Office-Hadley Centre models), covering a range of emission and land-use scenarios (through an associated Brazilian-funded project).

The web-based tool is capable of integrating information of recent extremes and their impacts on ecosystems and human health with relevant physical climate variables and metrics from future climate projections, supporting stakeholders (i.e. the public in general, government officers and decision makers) and educators to develop their own understanding of the interactions between climate, ecosystems and human health in Amazonia – and eventually across the whole region.

Puklse 4

Vital planning tool for Amazonian policymakers in Acre State

A case in point is the recent dispute that has opened up between international health scientists and epidemiologists who have warned the estimated 600,000 visitors to the FIFA World Cup during June and July they run a risk of contracting tropical dengue fever – especially those visiting Cup venues in the hotter north of the country, especially Manaus.

Brazilian scientists, meanwhile, published a report claiming the fears are exaggerated and that cooler winter conditions during the Cup period mean no more than 100 foreigners will be exposed to the disease bearing aedes aegypti mosquitoes.

Certainly, the onset of the austral winter and the heavy hailstorm that in mid May whitened the streets of São Paulo (where the World Cup is to kick off June 12th) makes it much more unlikely that many tropical mosquitoes will be attacking tourists in now-chilly southern Brazil.

Predicting extreme climate events would solve scientific wrangles

Predicting extreme climate events would solve scientific wrangles such as this “tropical snowstorm.”

Clearly both sides cannot be right and a more accurate system of climate and disease modelling such as PULSE would help clear up such uncertainties.

You can read a detailed article about PULSE by Brazilian journalist Karina Toledo by clicking here.

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