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Abstract, Science, 2020

The CHC team, led by Funk and geographer Greg Husak, practice what they call “humanitarian earth system science.” Working with partners funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), they have refined their forecasts over 20 years from basic weather monitoring to a sophisticated fusion of climate science, agronomy, and economics that can warn of drought and subsequent famines months before they arise. Their tools feed into planning at aid agencies around the world, including USAID, where they are the foundation of the agency’s Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET), which guides the deployment of $4 billion in annual food aid. Increasingly, African governments are adopting the tools to forecast their own vulnerabilities. “They’ve been absolutely key” to improving the speed and accuracy of drought prediction, says Inbal Becker-Reshef, a geographer at the University of Maryland, College Park, who coordinates a monthly effort to compare drought warnings for nations at risk of famine. “Every single group we work with is using their data.”