Reaching Users With Climate Services

Global cooperation and engagement is critical, as climate change and natural hazards continue to threaten the most vulnerable. Getting climate information to those who need it most is a priority. WMO is taking the lead in implementing the Global Framework for Climate Services (GFCS), the global effort to coordinate organizations engaged in producing and using climate information and services.

In the last issue of the Bulletin (Vol. 60(1)), we made the case for a GFCS, explored what climate services users need and showcased effective outreach strategies. This issue focuses on user needs, climate science and disaster risk reduction.

Our opening article puts a human face on climate change, eloquently and passionately expressed by the Prime Minister of the Republic Bangladesh in her address to WMO’s 16th World Meteorological Congress, held in Geneva in June 2011.

Her Excellency Sheikh Hasina de­scribes her country’s “dire predica­ment” in the face of climate change, while declaring it is “a serious challenge to human existence”. She notes that implementing the GFCS would be a significant first step in the world’s collective efforts to combat the impacts of climate change. Ms. Hasina calls on GFCS to facilitate international cooperation in science-based climate prediction and services.

User needs

In this section, we take a “deep dive” into user needs in three sectors: water, agriculture and energy. Finally, a project in Ethiopia could be a template for improving climate services in Africa. These four articles clearly illustrate that the need for long-term historical climate information and products is as crucial as ever.

Water resources systems are planned based on climate information and are operated on the basis of weather information. The article presents a case study of building a dam and explains why seasonal climate outlooks – or predictions – are of growing interest to water resources managers in urban and rural areas. The author argues that mechanisms to improve cooperation and collaboration between the water and climate sectors can only be beneficial.

In the agriculture sector, climate is both a resource and a hazard. Climate change and climate variability are the main causes of stress on food production and availability. However, there is a big gap between what farmers need and available seasonal climate forecasts. The author calls on climate services providers to strengthen connections with users through engaging with user communities, building institutional and technical capacity, and decentralizing climate services to be closer to user needs.

The energy sector has many requirements for meteorological services to support decision-making for day-to-day operations and longer-term strategic planning. This article focuses on the electricity sector and examines the challenges and opportunities that meteorological services could assist in addressing. The author notes that to make the GFCS truly effective, there needs to be a closer engagement between meteorological professionals and decision-makers.

Credible information about the past climate, recent trends and changes, likely future trajectories, and associated impacts is key to climate risk management. A project is underway in Ethiopia, focusing on improving data availability, access and use by communities. The famine crisis sweeping across the Horn of Africa is another reminder of how climate can destroy lives and livelihoods. The project results could be improved and scaled up to all countries in Africa, and are readily adaptable to national needs and circumstances.

Climate Mosaic

These thought provoking photographs are reflections on climate change. Each is composed of dozens of images that have been combined and retouched, reflecting the step-by-step, multifaceted and multidisciplinary approach that all stakeholders are taking to adapt to the effects of climate change on society and the natural environment.

Climate science – two reflections

Professor Taroh Matsuno of Japan, an eminent research scientist in atmospheric dynamics and a distinguished leader in climate research, received WMO’s most prestigious award, the IMO prize, during the 16th Congress. In this interview, he talks to the Bulletin about a wide range of issues, including the challenges in forecasting and research, particularly in the tropics, and how research can be translated into climate services that reach users effectively.

In a scientific lecture to the 16th Congress, Adrian Simmons, Chairman of the Global Climate Observing System (GCOS) and expert from the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, outlines the challenges and opportunities inherent in processing observations. Observations are vital for providing monitoring and forecasting services for weather, air quality and climate. Much has been achieved over the past three decades, he argues, but much remains to be done.

Reducing disaster risk

The final three articles focus on reducing disaster risk. Climate-related disasters are on the rise worldwide. As a result, interest in climate services has risen significantly. National decision-makers need climate information to help them develop policies to decrease the risk of disasters. At the local level, work is underway to make cities safer and a campaign is underway to create a global network of local governments committed to reducing risk and building more resilient cities.

The first article explores how to make climate services more effective in face of increasing natural hazards through examining lessons learned from Africa and the Pacific regions. To develop effective climate services, it is important to analyse the key weaknesses in the national systems, reinforce institutional links and make the system more responsive to users needs. In short, funds need to be channelled into making the system more accessible and understandable.

By 2050, urbanization will rise to 70 per cent, with a concurrent rise in urban risk. The Republic of Korea’s experience reveals reducing disaster risk relies on national and local governments working together. For mayors and municipal authorities around the world, climate information is one of their most important tools. The government has made disaster reduction a priority. Strategies include land-use planning, structural safety, building resilience and community-based preparedness.

The United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction launched the Making Cities Resilient: My City is Getting Ready! Campaign in 2010. The campaign is based on three points: know more, invest wiser and build more safely. Mayors around the world, with the consent of their councils, are joining the campaign by agreeing to a 10-point checklist for making cities resilient to disasters caused by natural hazards. The campaign has been an overwhelming success. A longer-term programme will be expected to continue until 2015 and perhaps beyond.

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