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Abstract: Malaria early warnings based on seasonal climate forecasts from multi-model ensembles.

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Citation: Thomson, M.C., Doblas-Reyes, F.J., Mason, S.J., Hagedorn, R., Connor, S.J., Phindela, T., Morse, A.P., and T.N. Palmer. 2006. Malaria early warnings based on seasonal climate forecasts from multi-model ensembles. Nature 439(2): 576-9.

The control of epidemic malaria is a priority for the international health community and specific targets for the early detection and effective control of epidemics have been agreed. Interannual climate variability is an important determinant of epidemics in parts of Africa where climate drives both mosquito vector dynamics and parasite development rates. Hence, skilful seasonal climate forecasts may provide early warning of changes of risk in epidemic-prone regions. Here we discuss the development of a system to forecast probabilities of anomalously high and low malaria incidence with dynamically based, seasonal-timescale, multi-model ensemble predictions of climate, using leading global coupled ocean-atmosphere climate models developed in Europe. This forecast system is successfully applied to the prediction of malaria risk in Botswana, where links between malaria and climate variability are well established, adding up to four months lead time over malaria warnings issued with observed precipitation and having a comparably high level of probabilistic prediction skill. In years in which the forecast probability distribution is different from that of climatology, malaria decision-makers can use this information for improved resource allocation.

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