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A Climate Services Vision: First Steps Toward the Future
projections with respect to overall food demands by the United States and the nation’s ability to support exports to other countries. With the expectation that drought throughout much of Africa would continue, the Department of State and the Department of Defense examined options for assistance that would be needed if social stresses increased throughout most of the continent. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) issued warnings in regions prone to increased weather risk with the goals of improving mitigation efforts and increasing public awareness. U.S. industries guided the manufacture, marketing, and distribution of weather-sensitive products from clothing to home improvement goods and services. Travel agencies and the transportation industry planned for the expected demand for travel to specific winter and summer vacation destinations.
The hypothetical scenario above represents a potential for climate services two decades into the future if aspects of current capabilities and agency responsibilities are simply extrapolated forward in time. It illustrates the importance and impact of such a service, without even considering major breakthroughs in science, technology, or information management. The timely delivery of useful products through direct and accessible user interfaces can maximize the societal benefits and limit national risks. It represents directed efforts to translate knowledge of the climate system into a national service function.
Climate is an increasingly important element of the public and private decision-making process. Advances in monitoring and predicting variations in climate, coupled with growing concern over the potential for climate change and its impact, are yielding an increased awareness of the importance of climate information for enhancing economic vitality, maintaining environmental quality, and limiting threats to life and property (Changnon 2000). The importance of climate information has fostered the concept of a “climate service”.
Climate has a local- to regional-scale component, and information and expertise are needed to address these space scales. For example, the climate of urban St. Louis is markedly different from that of rural Missouri, and the climate of the Midwest is strikingly different from that of the High Plains and the Northeast. Most activities impacted by climate operate at such local to regional scales and so need information for those areas. To serve the many agricultural interests in the Corn Belt, the Midwestern Regional Climate Center