A CLIMATE SERVICES VISION

first steps toward the future

Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate

Division on Earth and Life Studies

National Research Council

NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS
WASHINGTON, D.C.



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A Climate Services Vision: First Steps Toward the Future A CLIMATE SERVICES VISION first steps toward the future Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate Division on Earth and Life Studies National Research Council NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS WASHINGTON, D.C.

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A Climate Services Vision: First Steps Toward the Future NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS 2101 Constitution Ave., NW Washington, DC 20418 NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance. Support for this project was provided by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. ATM-9814235, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the sponsors or their subagencies. International Standard Book Number 0-309-08256-0 Additional copies of this report are available from: National Academy Press 2101 Constitution Avenue, NW Lockbox 285 Washington, DC 20055 800–624–6242 202–334–3313 (in the Washington metropolitan area) http://www.nap.edu Printed in the United States of America Copyright 2001 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

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A Climate Services Vision: First Steps Toward the Future THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES National Academy of Sciences National Academy of Engineering Institute of Medicine National Research Council The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Bruce M.Alberts is president of the National Academy of Sciences. The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. Wm.A.Wulf is president of the National Academy of Engineering. The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Kenneth I.Shine is president of the Institute of Medicine. The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy’s purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Bruce M.Alberts and Dr. Wm.A.Wulf are chairman and vice chairman, respectively, of the National Research Council.

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A Climate Services Vision: First Steps Toward the Future BOARD ON ATMOSPHERIC SCIENCES AND CLIMATE ERIC J.BARRON (Chair), Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania SUSAN K.AVERY, Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado RAYMOND J.BAN†, The Weather Channel, Inc., Atlanta, Georgia HOWARD B.BLUESTEIN, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma STEVEN F.CLIFFORD, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Boulder, Colorado GEORGE L.FREDERICK, Vaisala Meteorological Systems, Boulder, Colorado MARVIN A.GELLER*, State University of New York, Stony Brook, New York CHARLES E.KOLB*, Aerodyne Research, Inc., Billerica, Massachusetts JUDITH L.LEAN, Naval Research Laboratory, Washington, DC MARGARET A.LEMONE†, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado MARIO J.MOLINA†, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts ROGER A.PIELKE, JR., Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado MICHAEL J.PRATHER, University of California, Irvine, California WILLIAM J.RANDEL†, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado ROBERT T.RYAN, WRC-TV, Washington, DC MARK R.SCHOEBERL*, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland JOANNE SIMPSON*, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland THOMAS F.TASCIONE, Sterling Software, Inc., Bellevue, Nebraska ROBERT A.WELLER, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Massachusetts ERIC F.WOOD, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey Ex Officio Members DONALD S.BURKE, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland DARA ENTEKHABI, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts EUGENE M.RASMUSSON, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland EDWARD S.SARACHIK, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington

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A Climate Services Vision: First Steps Toward the Future NRC Staff ELBERT W. (JOE) FRIDAY, JR., Director LAURIE S.GELLER, Program Officer PETER A.SCHULTZ, Senior Program Officer VAUGHAN C.TUREKIAN, Program Officer DIANE GUSTAFSON, Administrative Assistant ROBIN MORRIS, Financial Associate TENECIA A.BROWN, Project Assistant CARTER W.FORD, Project Assistant †   Beginning March 2001 *   Ending December 2000

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A Climate Services Vision: First Steps Toward the Future ACKNOWLEDGMENTS This report has been reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the National Research Council’s Report Review Committee. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the institution in making its published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process. We wish to thank the following individuals for their review of this report: Mark R.Abbott, Oregon State University; Lee E. Branscome, Environmental Dynamics Research, Inc.; Stanley A.Changnon, Illinois State Water Survey; Richard M.Goody, Harvard University; William E. Gordon, Rice University; Franklin W.Nutter, Reinsurance Association of America; Maria A.Pirone, WSI Corporation; and Jack Williams, USA Today. Although the reviewers listed above have provided constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions or recommendations, nor did they see the final draft of the report before its release. The review of this report was overseen by S.George Philander (Princeton University) and Louis Lanzerotti (Bell Laboratories). Appointed by the National Research Council, they were responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with institutional procedures and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the authoring committee and the institution.

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A Climate Services Vision: First Steps Toward the Future PREFACE The uses of climate information are evolving rapidly. In popular usage, climate refers to the average weather or its variations over a period of time. During the twentieth century, meteorologists greatly improved their skill in weather forecasting for relatively short time periods, such as out to a week. Their forecasts could be relied on by those making decisions about a wide variety of activities. Historically, however, public and private decisions about the weather over longer time periods—the climate—were based on a statistical analysis of weather records. Much has changed over the last two decades. Our ability to monitor and predict variations in climate has increased substantially. Growing knowledge of the causes and characteristics of seasonal to interannual variability and decadal-time-scale changes is being translated into useful long-lead-time forecasts and a greater capability to project future climate change. Those increases in capability coincide with a growing realization of the importance of climate variability and the potential for future change. The extension of climate information from a statistical analysis of historical observations to seasonal and interannual forecasts to century-scale projections has enabled a broader set of applications, which serve to enhance economic vitality, manage risk, protect life and property, promote environmental stewardship, and assist in the negotiations of international treaties. The array of applications and the potential for new applications are enormous.

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A Climate Services Vision: First Steps Toward the Future The provision of climate services in the United States is evolving in response to the combination of a growing knowledge base, a growing appreciation of the importance of climate in human endeavors, and a greater demand for climate information. Two issues emerge. First, the value of these services to society depends on many factors, including the nature of uncertainties of the forecasts and projections, the strength of the connections between climate and specific human endeavors, the accessibility of the information, and the ability of users to respond to useful information. Second, the importance of climate is clearly stimulating user demand and broadening the scope of and demand for climate services. For this reason, the Federal Committee for Meteorological Services and Supporting Research asked the Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate (BASC) of the National Research Council to review the status of climate services in the United States and to recommend direction for the future provision of these services. That request matched the list of topics identified by BASC as priority subjects for study after its 1998 review of the field of atmospheric sciences. The federal agencies responsible for climate services developed a statement of task, and in response the board reviewed the provision of climate services in the United States. The report that follows is divided into four main segments. Chapter 1 provides specific examples that show the growing breadth and demand for climate services in the United States. The evolution of climate services is examined in Chapter 2 by briefly reviewing its history and the current activities of U.S. agencies. The board developed a set of principles that should guide the provision of climate services; these are presented in Chapter 3. Finally, the board’s recommendations focus on enhancing existing institutional capabilities. The recommendations, laid out in Chapter 4, reflect a set of “first steps” to a more effective climate service in the United States. The intent of the recommendations is to promote a climate service that is increasingly user-centric, that reflects the value of both historical and predictive knowledge, and that promotes active stewardship of climate information. The board believes that its recommendations can be implemented quickly and that they have the potential to pay large dividends at modest cost because they leverage current climate service efforts. At the same time, the guiding principles should continue to help promote a highly valued and useful climate service function in the United States even beyond these first steps. Eric J.Barron, Chair Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate

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A Climate Services Vision: First Steps Toward the Future CONTENTS     EXECUTIVE SUMMARY   1 1   INTRODUCTION   8     Climate Services Definition,   13     Examples Demonstrating the Breadth and Demand for Climate Services,   15     Summary,   22 2   EVOLUTION OF CLIMATE SERVICES IN THE UNITED STATES   23     Context,   23     Role of Government Agencies: A Bit of History,   24     Development of the Private Sector,   28     A Possible Future,   29 3   GUIDING PRINCIPLES FOR CLIMATE SERVICES   32     The Five Major Guiding Principles,   32 4   FIRST STEPS TOWARD AN EFFECTIVE CLIMATE SERVICE   39     Concluding Remarks,   56

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A Climate Services Vision: First Steps Toward the Future     REFERENCES   58     ACRONYMS AND ABBREVIATIONS   61     BOARD MEMBERS’ BIOGRAPHIES   63     APPENDIXES     A   Statement of Task,   71 B   Workshop Participants,   72 C   Agenda,   74 D   Examples of areas of climate information requests,   77