Climate services, climate predictability & inter-regional linkages

Hurricane Frances 2004

In April 2015 a €15 million collaborative research action was launched between the Belmont Forum and JPI Climate on 'climate services, climate predictability and inter-regional linkages'.

This call aims to contribute to the overall challenge of developing climate services with a focus on interregional linkages role in climate variability and predictability. Major impediments indeed still exist having efficient climate services at regional and local leave, because of little or poorly understood climate processes (in part caused by a paucity of observations, inadequate dissemination of scientific knowledge, conflicts between climatic and non-climatic stressors and lack of action by decision makers and the human society at large).

The call covers three topics:

  • Topic 1 - Understanding past and current variability and trends of regional extremes
  • Topic 2 - Predictability and prediction skills for near-future variability and trends of regional extremes
  • Topic 3 - Co-construction of near term forecast products with users.

NB. Only topics 1 and 2 are eligible for NERC funding although projects can collaborate with international partners who are also addressing topic 3.

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Climate Services aim at providing more reliable climate information for the near future (months to decades) relevant for local and regional users. Within this broad context, variability of polar and tropical systems affects a large proportion of the world population.

Extremes such as sub-seasonal breaks of monsoon rains up to decadal trends in rainfall intensity have a strong impact on water resources for agriculture, industry and water supply. In turn, global monsoon systems in Asia, Africa and Latin America also affect climate extremes in mid-and high-latitudes. Similarly, variability of polar vortexes plays a significant role on weather in mid-latitudes, and even on monsoon systems via teleconnection, including the stratosphere. Particular examples include the Pakistan flooding of 2010 and flooding in northern India in 2013 and 2014, both of which featured strong interactions between the mid-latitude flow and tropical monsoon behaviour. Equivalent events could be found also in Africa (as 2010-11 Southern Africa floods), America (as 2005 Amazonian drought), or Eurasia (as 2013 Central Europe flooding or 2010 Russian wildfires).

Enhancing prediction capabilities of such phenomena as well as improving the usability of such climate knowledge to users would strongly benefit society. Risk management measures addressing immediate needs should be put in the context of systematic changes of these risks over time. In turn, insights on future climate conditions can be promoted by coupling them to present day experience of climate and weather anomalies.

Improving the usefulness (credibility, level of detail, tailoring for user needs) of climate projections deserves an enhanced attention. Timely, relevant and legitimate scientific knowledge is central for increasing the adaptive capacity and resilience of diverse users to the impact of climate variability and change. This is of particular importance in the context of low capacity but also central for developed and emerging countries as emphasised in the Global Framework for Climate Services, as well as in the new global platform Future Earth.

This call aims to contribute to the overall challenge of developing climate services with a focus on inter-regional linkages role in climate variability and predictability. Major impediments indeed still exist having efficient climate services at regional and local level, because of little or poorly understood climate processes (in part caused by a paucity of observations), inadequate dissemination of scientific knowledge, conflicts between climatic and non-climatic stressors and lack of action by decision makers and the human society at large.

Topic 1 - Understanding past and current variability and trends of regional extremes

The utility of projections and scenarios will progress when their match with historic and recent observed variability and trends improves. Therefore this topic is devoted to:

  • Observation: Place modes of large‐scale sub-seasonal to decadal variability in a climatological context using historical and paleoclimate data and coupled Earth/climate system models for the past, present and future conditions.

  • Process: Understanding drivers and mechanisms of observed large-scale variability and trends on sub-seasonal to decadal time scales and their regional representation (teleconnections, role of components such as cryosphere, ocean and/or stratosphere, orography, warming 'hiatus', etc).

  • Evaluation: Attribution of discrepancies between regional observations and historical simulations and hindcasts, to uncertainties in the variability of natural forcings and of, modelling uncertainties and/or internal variability.

Topic 2 - Predictability and prediction skills for near‐future variability and trends of regional extremes

Recent research programs have explored the possibility to generate more skilful decadal forecasts, focusing on initialisation techniques, process studies and model system configurations. In many populated areas, outside the tropics for short-term El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO), such forecast skill is yet very unsatisfactory for supporting stakeholders' decisions. Only some potential sources of predictability have been detected so far. Further exploration may improve prediction skill:

  • Exploration: New regional model-based sub-seasonal/decadal prediction ensemble for the reliability of near-term projections for user-relevant spatial scales.

  • Investigation: Impact of initialising coupled components of the sub-seasonal to decadal climate system other than the ocean (eg sea ice, land surface, vegetation, aerosols, etc).

  • Assessment: Test different approaches to improve near-future estimates of variability and trends (eg model weighting approaches), benchmark realism of projections and initialised predictions using empirical statistical relationships.

Topic 3 - Co‐construction of near term forecast products with users

Enhancing adaptive capacity and resilience requires the integration of information on both climatic and non-climatic stressors. Translation and visualisation of climate information for users should be improved, users' representations of climatic issues should be better understood, and mutual trust should be developed. Although topics 1 and 2 above do address issues that are relevant for users, their utility needs to be progressed in order to fully benefit from new research results, with:

  • Transdisciplinarity: Co-construction development of processes to co-identify and co-develop the useful knowledge, based on near-term climate forecasts in sub-seasonal to decadal scale, required by a group of users (from public/private sectors or communities).
  • Investigation: Bounds and limits of climate information and its uncertainties, derived from sub-seasonal, decadal climate models and observations, for integration by users within their current constraints, values and representations.

Timing

2015-2020

Budget

There is a combined international budget of approximately €15 million. The UK (NERC) budget stands at €1·5 million at 80% full economic cost.

The UK expects to support UK participation in approximately three projects.

Programme awards

In May 2016, eight awards were announced on the Belmont Forum website - external link, UK researchers are participating in six of the consortia, supported by NERC at a level of approximately £2·1 million.