The research effort has implications for other countries with deltas and large river catchments, including India, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia. "What began as a flood forecasting plan has turned into a broader study of climate change," said Webster. If sea rise in the region increases 1 meter by 2050 as some models indicate, half of Bangladesh will be underwater, displacing 100 million people.
"We now understand the physics of the ocean and the monsoons pretty well," said Webster. "The challenge is to take our forecasts to the people and improve their livelihoods. This project shows CU is at the center of a major practical science effort, and demonstrates what university science can really accomplish."
The PAOS team was awarded a three-year, $1 million grant for the project from the U.S. Agency for International Development. "Since 65 percent of the worlds population is subsistence farming families living in monsoon regions, our vision is to create a Center for Monsoon Studies at the university," said Webster, who involves more than a dozen post-doctoral researchers and graduate and undergraduate students in his research.
"Ideally, we would like our center to be a non-governmental organization funded by private gifts from donors," he said. "Understanding the physical and biological sides of monsoon activity will allow us to work directly with the Bangladesh people and help improve their lives."