The project was initiated in January 1994 and after finalizing organizational matters and training for the 29 studies included within the region, several teams of specialists are now working on the assessment. Due to the fact that seven countries are involved in the project and that the schedule of activities varies for each area of study, it is still premature to make comparisons other than on methods and activities. Baseline scenarios are being developed for the region. They cover socioeconomic, environmental, and climatological aspects of the region. Each country has discussed and selected priority areas and actions to serve as the focus of the study, through "National Development Plan" criteria.
For the water resources sector estimations of climate change impacts on demand and supply of water are being completed. A video mapping analysis of the Pacific coastline of Central America and for the Caribbean coastline of Honduras and Belize has been completed to identify the vulnerability of coastal resources. For the agricultural sector, all basic data have been gathered to complete the model simulations of climate change impacts for subsistence crops.
Even though the growing importance that new activities like tourism have had recently, agriculture is still a major component in the economy of the Central American countries. Agriculture is important for the region not only for economic income purposes (cash crops) but also from the perspective of subsistence and food security. The high dependence of the Central American economies on agricultural products and the corresponding relationship between this sector and the climate, increases the sensitivity of this sector to a potential change in climate.
In most of the Central American countries the production of energy depends, on a high percentage, of its hydroelectric capacity. Changes in the circulation patterns that might affect the seasonality and the amount of rainfall would present a major threat to the energy production sector. Recent experiences with the El Niñ o Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phenomenon are evidence of this vulnerability.
Central America, located in the middle of the American Continent is natural divide between two oceans, therefore, it contains one of the richest and more diverse coastal and marine systems of the world. These systems include coral reefs, mangroves, and one of the largest continuous beaches in the world.
Potential problems associated with the sea level rise and the increasing development of tourism and commercial infrastructure along the coast, place the countries' economies in a vulnerable condition.
Forest and wildlife are critical assets for Central America. They are important not only for activities like ecotourism, but also as a natural laboratory for finding new medicines and place for the species to live in this human saturated world.
From a global perspective, the tropical forests of Central America play a large role as a sink of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. A high percentage of these forests are under some kind of protective law.
New initiatives from governments are addressing all of these valuable resources within a general sustainable development framework. Given the importance that natural resources have for Central America and the high dependence that exist between the resources, climate, and economic growth, a regional study is being undertaken for assessing the vulnerability of water, agriculture, and coastal resources to a potential change in climate.
The methodology used for the assessment of the vulnerability of the water, coastal, and agricultural resources to a change in climate for Central America can be divided into four components:
Scenarios for income growth, population growth and distribution, energy demand, and agriculture demand are being prepared for the Central America region contemplating projections to the year 2075. General estimations based on global and regional sources (Pepper, 1992; United Nations, 1989,1990) are being used.
Environmental scenarios are being prepared with projections to the year 2075 considering the following factors: land-use change (including deforestation and urban development), tenure, erosion and use of pesticides.
The subgroup for climate scenarios is developing the scenarios using information generated from the General Circulation Models (GCMs) and from the Central America reference data base on climate change, which have been developed for the activities of the IPCC.
Final results from this component are expected in April 1995.
A Central American reference database for climate change studies is under development. Climatological and hydrological data for the region is being input into the system. At this moment, 80 percent of the data entry process has been completed. Data includes daily precipitation, daily maximum and minimum temperature, daily solar radiation and/or sunshine hours, monthly river flow and runoff. The information covers the period 1951 1994, and for some areas earlier records have been obtained, some of them starting in 1886. A total of 60 weather stations were selected for Central America. They are representative of large climatological zones and of the main synoptic patterns that produces the actual regional weather and climate.
In the case of hydrological and agronomic information, the data represent specific basins and zones were the studies are taking place (Tables 1 and 3).
All the information entered in the data base has been subject to a quality control process. Two main approaches are being used for the development of climate scenarios for the vulnerability studies: one is a selection of those model results that best represent the Central American region climate. The other approach is more subjective since it incorporates the expert judgement. On the basis of the model results that best represent the region, climatologists and meteorologists from the region will incorporate their knowledge of the synoptic systems and their corresponding mesoscale impacts. This latter approach will allow for a better utilization by the scientists who are in charge of assessing the vulnerability in specific zones of Central America.
The generation of climate scenarios is expected to be completed by April 1995.
At this point, coastline profiles are being prepared and ground truthing is being completed. It is estimated that 80 percent of the task has been completed.
At this point each national team is gathering the information and preparing the simulations with the DSSAT3 model.
Hastenrath, S., and P. Lamb. 1981. Climatic Atlas of the Tropical Atlantic and Eastern Pacific Oceans. The University of Wisconsin Press.
Houghton, J.T., Jenkins, G.J., and J. J. Ephraums. 1990. Climate Change: The IPCC Scientific Assessment. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Pepper, W. et al., 1992. Emissions Scenarios for the IPCC. An update: Assumptions, Methodology, and Results. ICF Incorporated, Fairfax, VA., U.S.A.
Shuval, H.I. 1987. The Development of water reuse in Israel. Ambio 16:186 192.
United Nations. 1990. Overall Socioeconomic Perspective of the World Economy to the year 2000, New York, N.Y., U.S.A.
United Nations. 1989. World Population Prospects 1988, New York,
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