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Andrea K. Gerlak, Zack Guido, Catherine Vaughan, Valerie Rountree, Christina Greene, Diana Liverman, Adrian R. Trotman, Roché Mahon, Shelly-Ann Cox, Simon J. Mason, Katharine L. Jacobs, James L. Buizer, Cedric J. Van Meerbeeck, and Walter E. Baethgen

Abstract

In many regions around the world, Regional Climate Outlook Forums (RCOFs) provide seasonal climate information and forecasts to decision-makers at regional and national levels. Despite having two decades of experience, the forums have not been systematically monitored or evaluated. To address this gap, and to better inform nascent and widespread efforts in climate services, the authors propose a process-oriented evaluation framework derived from literature on decision support and climate communication around the production and use of scientific information. The authors apply this framework to a case study of the Caribbean RCOF (CariCOF), where they have been engaged in a collaborative effort to integrate climate information and decision processes to enhance regional climate resilience. The authors’ examination of the CariCOF shows an evolution toward the use of more advanced and more diverse climate products, as well as greater awareness of user feedback. It also reveals shortfalls of the CariCOF, including a lack of diverse stakeholder participation, a need for better understanding of best practices to tailor information, undeveloped market research of climate products, insufficient experimentation and vetting of communication mechanisms, and the absence of a way to steward a diverse network of regional actors. The authors’ analysis also provides insight that allowed for improvements in the climate services framework to include mechanisms to respond to changing needs and conditions. The authors’ process-oriented framework can serve as a starting point for evaluating RCOFs and other organizations charged with the provision of climate services.

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