and its associated impacts. Increasingly, climate model projections are also being used by decision makers to assess long-term global change issues of importance to the nation. After reviewing the various meanings used in the past, the National Research Council’s Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate (BASC) took a broad view and defined climate services as the timely production and delivery of useful climate data, information, and knowledge to decision makers.

A climate service must focus on very different types of activities in order to address all the major categories of variability and change. Climate services and products include observations, forecasts, and projections and their uncertainties that address both seasonal to interannual variability and decadalto century-scale change and variability, including human-induced global change. Each is associated with different types of users or decision makers and with different types of needs and products, as is evident by the current use of climate information.

The value of climate information to society depends on many factors, including the strength and nature of the linkages between climate, weather, and human endeavors; the nature of the uncertainties associated with climate forecasts; the accessibility of credible and useful climate information to decision makers; the ability of users2 and providers to identify each other’s needs and limitations; and the ability of users to respond to useful information. Increasing realization of the importance of climate is stimulating user demand for improved information, which in turn is substantially broadening the scope of climate services. Because of these factors, the subject of climate services was an agenda item at the fall 1999 BASC meeting, held jointly with the Federal Committee for Meteorological Services and Supporting Research (FCMSSR). Subsequent to the meeting, the federal agencies, through FCMSSR, asked BASC to review the status of climate services and to recommend direction for the future provision of climate services to the nation. In particular, BASC was asked to address the following items outlined in the statement of task:

  • Define climate services.

  • Describe potential audiences and providers of climate services.


This term is used throughout the report to include various sectors of society that use weather and climate information. It includes various economic sectors (e.g., agriculture, transportation, industry, and insurance) as well as emergency managers, the media, and the general public.

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