The control of malaria is a top priority for international health officials these days.
The problem is greatest in sub-Saharan Africa. And it kills millions of people worldwide each year.
According to Simon Mason, a climatologist with the Earth Institute at Columbia University in New York, "Most people joke about us not getting the weather forecast right over the next few days, so it's even harder for us to forecast the climates if we're going to forecast the climates three, four months in advance."
Columbia's Earth Institute collaborated with European scientists to develop the DEMETER project.
DEMETER is a computer ensemble of all the available climate models around Europe. The models are then used to make weather predictions up to four months ahead of time in tropical countries, where malaria is endemic.
As said by Tim Palmer leader of scientists at the European Center for Medium Range Weather Forecasts in England, which devised DEMETER,"When things are predictable, all of the models give the same answer. They are consistent within each other. When we are entering a very unpredictable or chaotic period, then the models diverge in what they say. They give different answers and then we can't be sure of what's going to happen."
Scientists say the model was more successful at predicting very low epidemic years, which it did 85 percent of the time.
Researchers are already starting to use DEMETER to help countries in southern Africa predict whether they should brace for a malaria outbreak.
This revolutionary discovery appears in the Journal Nature.