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NOAA image of Vegetation Health Index.February 11, 2003 — A team of scientists has examined the relationship between climate and income, and has concluded that the climate clearly plays an important role in determining the distribution of rural poverty, NOAA announced today. (Click NOAA image to view NOAA Vegetation Health Index Animation.)

The NOAA scientists, led by Alan Basist of the NOAA National Climatic Data Center, analyzed upper level soil wetness data along with population densities and economic data from the U.S. Census (1990 -2000). In addition, they used climate data provided by NOAA to identify relationships between climatic and agricultural production, per capita income, and land value in rural districts across the United States and Brazil. The climate data (surface temperature and wetness) are derived from the Special Sensor Microwave Imager, which is flown by the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program. Another climatic variable (Vegetation Health Index) is derived from the NOAA polar-orbiting operational environmental satellites.

Three separate analyses were conducted for rural counties in Brazil and the United States. The first analysis establishes that climate is correlated with income. Higher temperatures are associated with reduced income in both Brazil and the United States. Over the United States higher incomes correspond with higher amounts of upper-level soil moisture. In Brazil, lower incomes correspond with lower amounts of soil moisture. The second analysis shows that the predicted value of land (net revenue) does indeed have a strong direct relationship with income. Areas with more highly valued land have higher incomes.

The third analysis separates the impact of the climate, as measured by normals, from other factors that affect farm productivity. Findings reveal that climate normals explain most of the variation in agricultural production. The evidence from the United States and Brazil reveals that climate does in fact influence income, and clearly plays a role in determining rural poverty. It is more difficult to generate income in places with lower productivity. This is evident even in the United States, which has plenty of access to capital and modern technology.

The results of the study, which was funded by the World Bank, were presented February 11, at the annual meeting of the American Meteorological Society in Long Beach, Calif.

Team members, in addition to Basist, are Claude Williams and Felix Kogan, of NOAA; Robert Mendelsohn and Pradeep Kurukulasuria of Yale University, and Ariel Dinar and Rama Chandra Reddy of the World Bank.

The NOAA National Climatic Data Center is part of the NOAA National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NOAA Satellite and Information Services), the nation’s primary source of space-based meteorological and climate data. NOAA Satellite and Information Services operates the nation's environmental satellites, which are used for weather forecasting, climate monitoring and other environmental applications such as fire detection, ozone monitoring and sea surface temperature measurements.

NOAA Satellite and Information Services also operates three data centers, which house global data bases in climatology, oceanography, solid earth geophysics, marine geology and geophysics, solar-terrestrial physics, and paleoclimatology.

NOAA Research is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through research to better understand weather and climate-related events and to manage wisely the nation's coastal and marine resources. NOAA is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Relevant Web Sites
The Climate of 2003 (U.S. and Global Climate Perspectives)

NOAA Vegetation Health Index Animation

NOAA Satellite Wetness Maps—North America

Global Vegetation Index Products

NOAA National Climatic Data Center

Media Contact:
Patricia Viets, NOAA Satellite and Information Services, (301) 457-5005