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African-Dust Study Highlighted at Conference on Climate Change and Health Effects in the Caribbean

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Pan American Health Organization logo
PAHO (Pan American Health Organization) logo.
The Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO), under the auspices of the Interagency Network on Climate and Human Health, hosted a 2-day conference and 3-day workshop on climate change and human health in Barbados, West Indies, from May 20 to 25.

Supporting agencies included the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the World Meteorological Organization, the U.N. Environment Programme, and Health Canada. The meeting brought together weather and climate professionals and members of the public-health community from a host of Caribbean countries. The main objectives of the conference were

  • to inform health scientists, practitioners, and officials of the impacts of climate variation and long-term climate change in the Caribbean region
  • to integrate health-relevant sectors (for example, water resources, agriculture, and fisheries)
  • to introduce strategies in coastal-zone management that relate to sewage disposal and other health issues
  • to foster joint interdisciplinary research projects among local participants, as well as scientific partnerships between developed and developing nations
  • to promote the incorporation of global, regional, and national climate information into planning for public-health services at the national level

The first 2 days of the conference featured presentations on various subjects relating climate change to human health. These presentations gave the workshop participants background information on subjects ranging from El Nio to dengue fever and satellite data.

circular archway at the meeting site
Caribbean scenery from the meeting site.
Christina Kellogg from the USGS' St. Petersburg Center for Coastal and Regional Marine Studies (CCRMS) was invited to give a 15-minute presentation entitled "Characterization of Microbial Communities Associated with African Desert Dust and Their Implications for Global Human and Ecosystem Health."

In her talk, Christina discussed how African-dust influxes to the Caribbean region have increased over the past 2 decades as a result of a lengthy positive-phase North Atlantic Oscillation. Kin to the Pacific Ocean's El Nio, the North Atlantic Oscillation is an alternation of high- and low-pressure systems over the North Atlantic that is considered positive when high pressure near the Azores is abnormally strong and low pressure over Iceland is abnormally deep. Among the many effects of the positive phase is an increase in the strength of easterly trade winds that bring dust from Africa into the subtropical Atlantic.

Christina described some of the viable microbes that have been cultured from African dust, which seasonally blankets the entire Caribbean and parts of the Southeastern United States. These microbes include plant, animal, and opportunistic human pathogens, with obvious implications for ecosystem health (coral reefs, island flora and fauna) as well as human health. Christina also served as a resource person during the workshop segment of the conference, as participants worked together to create a document summarizing current and future needs for the Caribbean region with regard to understanding and planning for climate-variation issues.

More information about the conference is available on the conference Web site. More information about the USGS African-dust project can be found on the Coral Mortality and African Dust project Web site.

Related Web Sites
Coral Mortality and African Dust Project
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
Climate Variability and Change and their Health Effects in the Caribbean - Conference and Workshop
Pan American Health Organization (PAHO)

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Lake Mead Sediment Study

Salmon & Trout Habitat

Outreach Students Tour M/V Auriga

Williams' Presentation on Videotape

Meetings Benthic-Habitat Symposium

Caribbean Climate Change Conference

Regional Syntheses

Scientists Speak in Reston & D.C.

Awards Remote-Sensing Conference

Staff & Center News Sea-Survival Course

Regional Geologist Visits WHFC

New WHFC Employees

New Student Interns

WHFC Labs Pass Audit

Award-Winning Student Volunteer

Publications Contaminated Sediment - Special Issue of Continental Shelf Research

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Updated May 06, 2014 @ 02:18 PM (THF)