El Niño 2015 Conference: Shared Experiences - 20 Years of Climate Services and Framing the Next Steps in the Research and Development for Climate Resilience

Meeting or Conference
International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI); National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA); United States Agency for International Development (USAID); World Meteorological Organization (WMO)
Other organizer:
Bureau of Meteorology; Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IITM); International Research Centre on El Niño (CIIFEN)
17-18 Nov 2015
United States of America (New York)
Monell Auditorium, Columbia University at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory Campus, 61 Route 9W, Palisades, NY 10964


Experts are monitoring the development of one of the largest El Niño events of the last 50 years, and notably, the largest since the 1997-98 event that shocked global food, water, health, energy and disaster-response systems. The current El Niño is expected to peak by the end of the calendar year. It offers a unique opportunity for governments, scientists, economists, humanitarian agencies, development professionals and the media to define the research and development agenda for enhanced climate resilience and sustainable development.

In an effort to increase scientific understanding of this event and help boost resilience, a high-level El Niño conference will take place on Nov. 17 and 18, 2015. It is jointly organized by the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI), the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the U.S. Agency for International Development and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Scope and objectives:

The El Niño 2015 Conference provides a platform for a strategic dialogue to evaluate the big picture and frame big questions related to El Niño, extreme events, variability on multiple time scales, including long-term climate change. The potential regional climate impacts of the current El Niño event are likely to be serious, but climate does not act in isolation. Understanding the interaction of climate with other socio-economic and ecological systems is critical to addressing negative impacts while taking advantage of favourable climate events. To help us "learn forward", the Conference will convene the leaders of science, industry and development as well as stakeholders who offer provocative and multidisciplinary perspectives on to help shape future research and approaches to climate-resilient development.

Key objectives of the conference:

  • Provide an overview of the 2015 El Niño and its potential impacts

  • Explore the connection between the current El Niño and global change

  • Foster dialogue between climate scientists and development practitioners to strengthen action for climate resilience and sustainable development

  • Examine the progress, and lessons learned, over last 20 years in international, national and regional climate services, with a focus on El Niño

Expected outcomes:

  • Greater science-development practitioner dialog on the El Niño messaging, impacts and response

  • Improved understanding of the societal impacts of this El Niño in today’s world, highlighting opportunities and constraints

  • Shared perspective and experience on climate services, 20 years in the making

  • Fostering new and improved relationships among expert communities to facilitate action for climate resilience and sustainable development

  • Framing and coordination on next steps in the research and development agenda for enhanced climate resilience and sustainable development

Key outputs:

  • Develop shared recommendations on El Niño messaging (short term, with longer-term engagement) for development and practitioner communities as well as the public

  • Establish principles to guide future actions in climate services and frame next steps on research and development to support climate resilience (long-term)


Confirmed speakers include:

  • Jerry Lengoasa, WMO Deputy Secretary-General,

  • Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute, Colombia University, and

  • Michael Crow, president of Arizona State University.

Senior experts from meteorological services and research institutes around the world will present national case studies about the current El Niño, and representatives of development agencies, academia and the private sector will lead discussions on the impacts on health, water, disaster management, energy and agriculture and food security.

They will discuss issues such as lessons learned since the 1997/98 event, connecting research to operational communities, and defining adequate and appropriate El Niño response strategies and public messaging. They will also help define future priorities for enhancing climate resilience and sustainable development.

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