With the help of the tracks of mobile phones, human displacement due to change in climate has been made possible to track using a new system developed by Spanish researchers. During the six months of the study conducted using this model then tested, it was found that 10% of the population in Colombia migrated at the time of a dreadful drought in the country in 2014.

In the past, sudden population movements during floods, earthquakes, and other natural disasters have already been modeled and captured with the help of cell phone records or geo-located tweets. Now, the smartphone migration tracking system has been applied by Spanish researchers for the first time, and this is for climate change or other long-term phenomena.

Researchers Used Encrypted Cell Phone Metadata to Predict Migration

Encrypted and aggregated cell phone metadata was used in the study participated by Telefónica Research’s Enrique Frías-Martínez to predict the human migration during the 2014 La Guajira, Colombia drought. In order to identify the flow of population in municipalities of drought-affected areas, the research funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) of the U.S. included the use of cell phone traces. Researchers used this data to track migrations with the help of radiation models. Besides the origin to destination distance and characteristics of the population, the models consider economic opportunities of the area that migrants end up in.

With a view to add to the concept of economic opportunity, the authors proposed a variation using this solution while considering the destination’s climate for predicting migrations due to climate change.