The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) is undertaking a global review of Regional Climate Outlook Forums (RCOFs) which make seasonal predictions of rainfall and temperatures on regional scale and help national planning in key sectors like agriculture, health, energy and water management.
The review workshop will determine how to improve the process of creating, interpreting and disseminating regional climate outlooks to better serve the needs of society. It takes place at the International Research Centre on El Niño in Guayaquil, Ecuador from 5-7 September 2017.
RCOFs bring together climate experts and representatives of climate sensitive sectors to develop consensus-based and consistent climate information.
“Climate outlooks, particularly on regional and national scales, are an important tool to help society prepare for climate variations on sub-seasonal to seasonal time scales and to increase resilience to long-term climate change,” says Maxx Dilley, Director of WMO Climate Prediction and Adaptation branch. “With the benefit of 20 years of experience since the RCOFs were first initiated, the review will be a key opportunity to bring the stakeholders together and chart a course for their further evolution.”
RCOFs are held once or twice a year in advance of the key seasons – for instance the main rainfall seasons in Africa and the Southwest monsoon on the Asian sub-continent. They factor in climate drivers such as El Niño and La Niña events, and oceanic, atmospheric as well as land-surface conditions.
The regional climate outlook is derived from inputs and products from global and regional centres as well as the participating National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs). They are then downscaled into national climate outlooks and risk information to inform decision-makers and the public. An accompanying training workshop reinforces the technical skills of national and regional climate scientists.
Over the past two decades, WMO and its partners have successfully extended the global network with 19 forums currently operational worldwide.
RCOFs have helped increase the awareness and accuracy of seasonal forecasts; improved the capacity of NMHSs to develop and interpret such forecasts; and provide climate information to aid decision-making. They have also fostered active regional networks of experts and institutions, facilitating sharing of information and experience in managing climate risks to support sustainable development.
However, challenges and gaps remain in terms of human and infrastructure capacity as well as technical and methodological issues. User feedback shows that seasonal outlooks can still be improved to fully meet the needs of stakeholders.
The global RCOF review will therefore consider lessons learnt over the past two decades and discuss the way forward, including more tailored forecast products for specific user requirements, regular sub-seasonal updates, and routine evaluation of forecast skill, which can be communicated to users. The meeting will also consider the role of RCOFs in enhancing national capacity to generate outlooks and tailored products at country level.
The review process is guided by the WMO Commission for Climatology, in close collaboration with experts from relevant international institutions. It is being conducted as part of the implementation of the Global Framework for Climate Services, particularly its Climate Services Information System pillar.