IAI-UM Summer Institute on interactions between seasonal to interannual climate variability and human systems


Miami, Florida, USA, July 11-30, 1999






This Institute explored links between climate variability associated mainly with the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phenomenon and important socioeconomic sectors (e.g., agriculture, water resources). In particular, the Institute explored the implications of the emerging capability to forecast the occurrence on ENSO events with lead time of several months, and the feasibility of incorporating this information into decision-making or policy-making processes.




To promote effective communication and collaboration between early-career natural and social scientists from the Americas, the Inter-American Institute for Global Change Research (IAI) and the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science (UM-RSMAS) have joined efforts to implement a Summer Institute on Interdisciplinary Global Change Science in the Americas. The IAI/UM Summer Institute is a 3-year venture with support from the United States’ National Science Foundation.




The program for the first Summer Institute includes the following sub-themes:

– Climate variability on seasonal to interannual scales, possible sources
– The El Nino – Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phenomenon
– Impacts of El Nino and La Nina events in the Americas
– Climate forecasting techniques: statistical and numerical methods
– Capabilities and limitations of current climate forecasts
– Observation systems required to monitor and forecast ENSO events
– Impacts of climate variability on important socio-economic sectors: major focus on water resources and agriculture, overview of impacts on other sectors (fisheries, human health, natural disasters)
– Linking different kinds of models (climatic, agronomic, hydrologic, economic) to explore
outcomes of alternative responses to climate scenarios
– Potential use of climate forecasts in support of decision-making
– Communicating climate information effectively
– Economic, social, and cultural barriers or impediments towards the use of climate information




The Institute involved formal lectures and hands-on research projects that have been completed by participants. The Institute’s theme served as the central focus for most activities. Background lectures by Institute Leaders introduced participants from diverse disciplines to the various dimensions of the Institute’s theme. Several guest lecturers provided information about some of the sub-themes listed in the Institute’s Program. World-class scientists with recognized expertise participated as guest lecturers.

A fundamental component of the Institute’s activities were the hands-on research mini-projects that have been completed by participants during the Institute. The mini-projects had emphasize the need for multi-disciplinary, multi-national collaboration when dealing with global change problems with multiple natural and social dimensions.




Two experienced scientists with complementary backgrounds leaded the first Summer Institute:
– Dr. Diana Liverman, Director of the Latin American Studies program at the University of Arizona, USA, was the coordinator of the social science component. Dr. Liverman’s research interests focus on the social causes and consequences of environmental change, especially in Latin America.
– Dr. Alice Grimm, from the Federal University of Paraná, Brazil, and currently a visiting scientist at the International Research Institute for Climate Prediction (IRI) leaded the natural sciences component. Dr. Grimm has performed much research on the ENSO signature in South American climate.

Recognized experts on interannual climate variability and its effects on human systems presented a series of guest lectures.