Under the actual context of climate and environmental changes, national climate information providers are presently updating their approach to deliver targeted and applied services to their clients. In 2009 the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) adopted the Global Framework for Climate Services (GFCS) to be applied worldwide. Within the resulting reflection, the Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society (CMOS) has hosted through its 46th annual meeting a colloquium on “climate services for vulnerable societies” to review the challenges of climate services in an international context. The main goal of the meeting was to bring together the different stakeholders associated with climate services with a view to formulating recommendations for further developments. The colloquium allowed an interdisciplinary dialogue on climate services and identified the different perspectives from leading climate research and development centers (Africa, North America, and Europe), climate services users, and providers. The presentations, discussions, and exchanges provided ways to improve climate services for vulnerable societies. This article summarizes the take-home messages and the consensus that stemmed from this one-day workshop.
What: The Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society hosted a one-day colloquium on climate services that allowed attendees to explore new ways to improve climate services.
When: 29 May 2012
Where: Montreal, Quebec, Canada
CLIMATE AND SOCIETY.
“Society has always had to deal with climate variability, including extreme weather. But the combined effects of climate change, population increase, urbanization, and environmental degradation present new and greater challenges,” said Michel Jarraud, the WMO Secretary-General. Disasters linked to a weather–climate change continuum represent those which most affect human life, goods, and ecosystems across the world.
To make a decision about and adapt to weather–climate impacts and to mitigate climate risks, the national hydrologic and weather services must provide to the public accessible and useful weather–climate information. Generally the public views such information within a binary framework (e.g., Is it going to rain? yes or no; Was this summer a result of climate change? yes or no), whereas industrial sectors (i.e., agriculture, transportation, infrastructure, among others) need more specific and complex weather–climate information. An integrated multisectorial approach to address the issues associated to weather-climate information within the society requires citizens and institutions who understand that weather and climate (rain, drought, snow, heat wave) affect everyone (health, private enterprise and public service delivery, state of infrastructure) and the environment (ecosystems). Comprehensible information on weather and climate in general and sector-sensitive risk evaluation, as well as adaptation measures, remains critical in this regard. Thus, beyond the generation of the classical weather–climate data, substantial education, communication tools, and expertise must be developed with a cross-sector and regionally integrated approach in order to respond to society's evolving needs in climate services. The latter appears to be a permanent dialogue and synergy between concerned professional staff (meteorologists, climatologists, environmental managers, and policy makers) and public- and private-sector-based users. This integrative and multidisciplinary vision constitutes the backbone of the Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society 2012 “climate services” colloquium, held in spring 2012. This article summarizes the key issues and the consensus achieved during the meeting.
CLIMATE SERVICES BACKGROUND.
Increasing needs in terms of information and services characterize the current situation in the field of climate services (Vaughan 2011). Several factors such as the passage into an information economy and/or the general perception of climate change drive the high demand (Côté and Pietroniro 2012). The first factor is linked to the increasing need for the delivery of information in a timely manner for decision making. The second is related to an increase in the frequency and the intensity of extreme weather events as well as the changes to Earth's climate (Pachauri and Reisinger 2007). The impact of these events over the last several decades has led to global efforts to reduce the vulnerabilities and to develop adaptation actions to climate variability and change.
The growth of cities as well as that of rural areas has contributed to an increase in the number of marginalized and vulnerable populations facing hydroclimatic hazards. According to the literature, these types of hazards constitute almost 90% of all natural disasters. The significant societal impacts of hydroclimatic hazards led the WMO to organize a worldwide conference on climate services in June 2009 in Geneva, Switzerland. This international conference resulted in the organization of the first International Conference on Climate Services (Vaughan 2011).The vision of the GFSC is “to enable society to manage better the risks and opportunities arising from climate variability and change, especially as they concern those who are most vulnerable to climate-related hazards.” (Lúcio 2012, p. 5)
In October 2012, the WMO took steps to address issues surrounding climate variability and change through the adoption of an implementation plan and governance structure. Beyond the WMO, other institutions have conducted discussions on the topic with a view to meet the new challenges related to the growing needs of society in climate services. The International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI) along with several partners organized the first International Conference on Climate Services (ICCS) (Vaughan 2011). In September 2012 a follow-up conference was held in Brussels, Belgium. One of the key outcomes of the first ICCS was the creation of a climate service partnership (CSP). The latter conference aimed to connect various global actions on climate services in order to provide a forum in which the actors developing climate services share documents, experiences, and compare lessons learned.
The urgency to develop approaches to address climate services is felt globally, at both regional and national levels. In Europe this renewal is reflected in initiatives at the state level. France and the United Kingdom are examples of nations that have launched initiatives in this direction: the Drias Future Climate project (Dandin et al. 2012; Lémond 2010) and the climate adaptation plan and service reforms in the Met Office (Buontempo 2012), respectively.
In Africa, new initiatives like the ClimDev-Africa (UNECA 2011 and references therein) program have brought support to continental climate services that extend beyond that of national meteorological services. The priorities of ClimDev-Africa include capacity building of national institutions and developing pilot projects oriented toward sector-based applications, such as in agriculture. The African Center of Meteorological Application for Development (ACMAD), representing the WMO in Africa, recommended the establishment of regional climate centers (RCC).
Climate services reforms were also initiated in the United States and Canada. Both countries acknowledge the synergy between climate and water services. In the United States, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has developed a vision (Solomon et al. 2009) based on three questions: What needs to be done? How will it need to be done? What are the requirements? In the Canadian context, the renewal of climate services is considered in the framework of the Meteorological Service of Canada (MSC)'s signature project, which focuses on water and climate services (WCS) (Côté and Pietroniro 2012). The main objective of the WCS project is the production and delivery of essential water and climatic information, and climate predictions to decision makers. This project defines the composition of the WCS, including the development of a national, coordinated approach to the delivery of climate, impact-based weather and hydrological predictions and projections over a range of time scales, that is, hourly, daily, seasonal, and yearly.
The first Canadian Colloquium on Climate Services was entitled “Climate Services for Vulnerable Societies” and was organized within the 46th Annual CMOS Congress. The meeting was intended to be an interdisciplinary dialogue between different actors in the sector of climate services. It was also an opportunity for climate service users and providers as well as professionals working in the weather and climate sectors to exchange ideas.
The meeting was preceded by a plenary session chaired by the Honorable David Grimes, president of WMO and assistant deputy minister of MSC, who presented the perspectives of meteorological and hydrological services in a Canadian context and, thereafter, highlighted Canada's international commitments, including support for the WMO and its GFCS. According to Grimes, science and technology are the key elements to cope with the climate challenges facing vulnerable societies.
The colloquium on climate services included the following four sessions: 1) climate services: what is the current state of the affairs?; 2) users as the core of climate services; 3) service providers; and 4) posters.
The associated moderators were Pierre Baril, chief executive officer of the Ouranos (www.ouranos.ca) consortium on regional climatology and adaptation to climate change, for session 1; Jacinthe Lacroix, executive manager with the “weather and environmental operations” division of MSC, for session 2; and Philippe Gachon, research scientist with Environment Canada, for session 3. Session 4 was chaired by Lacroix. The presentations in these four sessions covered a variety of areas ranging from research and development to responding to users' needs. There were also discussions on climate impacts and adaptation strategies and how to evaluate their influence on the public and society.
In addition to Canadian representatives from several institutions (federal, provincial, and regional organizations as well as climate services providers), conference participants working in climate services came from as far as Africa and the United Kingdom.
KEY MESSAGES AND OUTCOMES OF THE COLLOQUIUM.
The set of presentations, discussions, and exchanges allowed for the generation of several key messages.
Climate services vision.
According to the participants of the workshop, climate services should be based on appropriate communication between actors. Raw data must continue to be collected, analyzed, and transformed into products and services, through the modeling and information management system as retained in the GFCS structure. Despite the top-to-bottom structure of climate-related institutions (international to national and national to local), an increased role must be conferred upon regional actors in horizontal dialogue with one another in order to identify the needs of vulnerable populations and sectors and to develop products and services to address these needs. In fact, a regional framework should be aligned with users' needs.
Climate information relevant to users' needs.
The participants underlined the necessity to suppress the virtual wall between weather and climate: The latter should be considered as a continuum. Relevant information provided to users must correspond to their needs in terms of spatial and temporal resolutions. Furthermore, this information should be accessible, understandable, and relevant. To ensure efficiency, it is vital that climate information is regularly updated and covers sectoral needs. Finally, service providers as well as the public and media should be prepared to receive new products and services as a result of the renewal of climate services. Social and economic situations should be taken into account in order to ensure that the data are understood.
Partnership and multisector approach.
Providing various climate services remains a challenge in a world characterized by the information economy and rapid decision making. Strong and reliable partnerships could contribute to the efficiency of climate services, especially on a regional scale. In fact, in terms of economic and social realities, regions are relatively homogenous entities. The synergy between actors involved in climate services can be expressed by the following actions: regional discussion tables or a conference board, providing interdisciplinary dialogue during periodic (e.g., a 2-yr basis) workshops focused on capacity building.
A cross-sector-based approach between water and climate services met the approval of the participants. The synergy between these two close fields regarding the links between the hydrologic cycle and atmospheric processes remains interesting in a general context of budget reduction. In fact, available financial resources could be optimized, and the public could benefit by a better characterization of the links between water resources and the weather–climate continuum.
On the other hand, public and private sectors could collaborate to lead and improve some weather–climate products. For example, Environment Canada uses Pelmorex Media Inc., a Canadian broadcast group, to broadcast weather warning information. But there is no collaboration between the two institutions in terms of information production despite the great experience of Pelmorex in public weather–climate reporting. Therefore, the adaptation to climate variability and change constitutes a significant opportunity to the private sector as reported by SNC-Lavalin Inc. during the colloquium.
Society, climate, communication, and tools.
Society remains exposed to various hydroclimatic risks. To reduce the vulnerability of particular populations and to limit the negative impacts of climate variability and change on these communities, it is vital that data circulate. New communication approaches on how to broadcast weather–climate continuum data and information with the associated uncertainty toward industries and the general public allow for more efficient climate services. Early warning systems and sector-based decision tools will protect people and goods, manage hydroclimatic risks, and seize opportunities linked to climate change. Furthermore, steps should be taken to increase the efficiency of climate services in using new media technologies such as smartphones, GIS, and web-based applications.
At this colloquium stakeholders, from providers to users of the climate services domain, recognized the need to adjust their practices and procedures in order to offer current products and services that meet the needs of a changing society. This awareness for change opens the way to capture new opportunities related to climate risk management and vulnerability reduction in a collaborative, multidisciplinary, and interdisciplinary way, and according to spatial and temporal scales.
Important issues regarding the effectiveness and the development of climate services came from this colloquium, including determining the nature of useful climate information, establishing efficient partnerships, and taking into account scientific and technological advancements in the development of products and services important in addressing climate change.
Faced with climate services issues, participants suggested increasing efforts in the prevention of impacts inherent to climate variability and extremes. This horizon may be reached by a relevant, useful, and timely process of generating weather–climate information. The latter must be a consensus between involved organizations, particularly at the regional level.