for those regions where the physical links are strongest may provide the highest scientific payoff, but it may not provide the most significant economic or humanitarian payoffs. Such considerations may imply that there is much to be gained by shifting some predictive effort from regions such as Latin America and Southern Africa that are highly sensitive to the El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phenomenon to regions such as Europe and West Africa, where outcomes may be highly sensitive to Atlantic climate variability or to monsoon predictions for Asia, even though predictive skill is currently very limited.
Improvements in the skill of forecasts, combined with the expectation that the new knowledge will not be used with perfect efficiency, means that it may be possible to deliver forecast information in ways that lead human groups to cope more effectively with seasonal-to-interannual climatic variability, reduce sensitivity to the downside of climatic variation, and take better advantage of climatic opportunities.
Therein lies the crux of our concerns here. The eventual value of improved forecasting skill will depend on how people and organizations deal with the new kind of information. Are they likely to pay attention to it? Will they understand what the climate models mean for them? Will they trust the messengers? How will mass media organizations and other messengers transmit forecast information, and how will their messages be interpreted? Are recipients likely to systematically misinterpret the information given to make it conform to their preexisting ideas? How will they respond to the false alarms and false reassurances that any imperfect forecasting system sometimes produces and to the inevitable simplifications offered by mass media and other messengers? And what can be done to transform potentially useful forecasts into information that is actually used to benefit society?
This book examines the state of knowledge and the needs for further knowledge relevant to understanding the effects of seasonal-to-interannual climate forecasts and making them more useful. Chapter 2 examines the current state of scientific capability to make skillful climate forecasts on a seasonal-to-interannual time scale and begins to address the question of what it would take to make such forecasts more useful. The information on climate forecasting is meant primarily as background for those outside the forecasting community; the section on usable knowledge is addressed both to forecasters and other readers. Chapter 3 considers what is known about the strategies people and societies have developed to cope with two qualities of their environments: that climate is variable, and that (until recently) climate variations have been essentially