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International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI)

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The International Research Institute for Climate and Society helps society understand, anticipate, and manage the impact of climate to improve human welfare and the environment, especially in the developing world.

IRI was established in 1996 by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Columbia University. Science is at our core, and the innovative research we conduct contributes to knowledge about climate and its impacts on the most vulnerable. IRI develops and shares prediction and forecasting products and other climate-related data that people need in order to turn climate risks into opportunities. We work with practitioners and decision makers in agriculture, health, water and several other sectors. IRI aims to create solutions that ultimately will increase adaptability to long-term climate change. Our work takes us around the world, training and collaborating with local, national and global partners to bring about real change.

We predominantly work in developing countries, with major activities in Africa, South America and Asia. These regions face a range of climate-related risks. Areas dependent on rainfed agriculture are constantly under threat of food shortages and insecurity. Extreme rainfall events and flooding often turn into disasters that impact roads, homes, crops, and water quality. Variations in temperature and rainfall from one year to the next, and even one decade to the next, can alter the incidence and distribution of vector-atmospheric dust, land cover, and evapotranspiration. IRI develops new products in partnership with national meteorological agencies around the world, as well as US institutions such as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. We make them freely available online through our data library and map rooms. These products feed into operational early-warning systems for health, natural disasters, agriculture and food security, to name a few.

We understand that simply providing products and tools or publishing papers is not enough to affect real operational change. Every year, we hold numerous training workshops around the world and at Columbia University to train scientists and decision makers, for example, on how to generate seasonal forecasts for their countries based on state-of-the-art techniques and how to convert those forecasts into usable information such as rainfall, crop and river flow estimates. The participants come from national meteorological agencies, regional climate centres and universities. We train public-health professionals from the World Health Organization (WHO) and national health ministries on how to understand and utilise climate information to make planning decisions for malaria, dengue and other climate-sensitive diseases. We are also deeply committed to education; we train graduate students in Columbia University’s Earth and Environmental Sciences Department and its Master’s programme on Climate and Society. The Environmental Monitoring Program is also a node for NASA’s DEVELOP programme, hosts and mentors students to work on applied science research projects. 

People

  • Senior Research Scientist in the International Research Institute for Climate and Society, Interim Director of the Agriculture and Food Security Center in the Earth Institute
  • Adjunct Research Scientist in the International Research Institute for Climate and Society
  • Senior Research Scientist in the International Research Institute for Climate and Society, Director, International Research Institute for Climate and Society, Adjunct Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences
  • Alan and Carol Silberstein Professor of Earth and Environmental Engineering and of Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics, Director, Columbia Water Center in the Earth Institute