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Maria Carmen Lemos, Hallie Eakin, Lisa Dilling, and Jessica Worl

Abstract

Few currently deny that extreme weather and climate change are among the most pressing problems of our times. There is also general agreement that humans are intrinsically part of the problem and of the solution. For the past hundred years, the American Meteorological Society (AMS) has supported weather and climate science, but only recently has it included the social sciences. In this chapter we review a few trends in the social science of climatic impact currently informing understanding of human interactions with weather, hazards, and climate change, including the science of science use, vulnerability and adaptation, and climatic change, health, and security. We argue that the social sciences have been steadily growing within AMS journals and have made an impact on the field (especially after the launching of a specific journal focusing on impact—Weather, Climate, and Society) but still have much room to grow within AMS to represent the many areas of social studies of weather and climate in the literature. One grand challenge that remains is to increase the usability and use of AMS-produced knowledge to inform decision-making in mitigating and responding to climatic change.

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Maria Carmen Lemos, Christine J. Kirchhoff, Scott E. Kalafatis, Donald Scavia, and Richard B. Rood

Abstract

While research focusing on how boundary organizations influence the use of climate information has expanded substantially in the past few decades, there has been relatively less attention to how these organizations innovate and adapt to different environments and users. This paper investigates how one boundary organization, the Great Lakes Integrated Sciences and Assessments Center (GLISA), has adapted by creating “boundary chains” to diversify its client base while minimizing transaction costs, increasing scientific knowledge usability, and better meeting client climate information needs. In this approach, boundary organizations connect like links in a chain and together these links span the range between the production of knowledge and its use. Three main chain configurations are identified. In the key chain approach, GLISA has partnered with other organizations in a number of separate projects simultaneously, diversifying its client base without sacrificing customization. In the linked chain approach, GLISA is one of several linked boundary organizations that successively deepen the level of customization to meet particular users’ needs. Finally, by partnering with multiple organizations and stakeholder groups in both configurations, GLISA may be laying the groundwork for enhancing their partners’ own capacity to make climate-related decisions through a networked chain approach that facilitates cooperation among organizations and groups. Each of these approaches represents an adaptive strategy that both enhances the efficiency and effectiveness of participating boundary organizations’ work and improves the provision of climate information that meets users’ needs.

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Lisa Dilling, Kirsten Lackstrom, Benjamin Haywood, Kirstin Dow, Maria Carmen Lemos, John Berggren, and Scott Kalafatis

Abstract

In recent years increasing attention has been focused on understanding the different resources that can support decision makers at all levels in responding to climate variability and change. This article focuses on the role that access to information and other potential constraints may play in the context of water decision making across three U.S. regions (the Intermountain West, the Great Lakes, and the Carolinas). The authors report on the degree to which climate-related needs or constraints pertinent to water resources are regionally specific. They also find that stakeholder-identified constraints or needs extended beyond the need for data/information to enabling factors such as governance arrangements and how to improve collaboration and communication. As climate information networks expand and emphasis is placed on encouraging adaptation more broadly, these constraints have implications not only for how information dissemination efforts are organized but for how those efforts need to be informed by the larger regional context in a resource-limited and fragmented landscape.

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Maria Carmen Lemos, Kimberly S. Wolske, Laura V. Rasmussen, James C. Arnott, Margaret Kalcic, and Christine J. Kirchhoff

Abstract

Scholarship on climate information use has focused significantly on engagement with practitioners as a means to enhance knowledge use. In principle, working with practitioners to incorporate their knowledge and priorities into the research process should improve information uptake by enhancing accessibility and improving users’ perceptions of how well information meets their decision needs, including knowledge credibility, understandability, and fit. Such interactive approaches, however, can entail high costs for participants, especially in terms of financial, human, and time resources. Given the likely need to scale up engagement as demand for climate information increases, it is important to examine whether and to what extent personal interaction is always a necessary condition for increasing information use. In this article, we report the results from two experimental studies using students as subjects to assess how three types of interaction (in-person meeting, live webinar, and self-guided instruction) affect different aspects of climate information usability. Our findings show that while in-person interaction is effective in enhancing understanding of climate knowledge, in-person interaction may not always be necessary, depending on the kinds of information involved and outcomes desired.

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Tonya Haigh, Lois Wright Morton, Maria Carmen Lemos, Cody Knutson, Linda Stalker Prokopy, Yun Jia Lo, and Jim Angel

Abstract

Although agricultural production faces chronic stress associated with extreme precipitation events, high temperatures, drought, and shifts in climate conditions, adoption of climate information into agricultural decision making has been relatively limited. Agricultural advisors have been shown to play important roles as information intermediaries between scientists and farmers, brokering, translating, and adding value to agronomic and economic information of use in agricultural management decision making. Yet little is known about the readiness of different types of agricultural advisors to use weather and climate information to help their clients manage risk under increasing climate uncertainty. More than 1700 agricultural advisors in four midwestern states (Nebraska, Indiana, Iowa, and Michigan) completed a web-based survey during the spring of 2012 about their use of weather and climate information, public or private sector employment, and roles as information intermediaries in three advising specializations: agronomic, conservation, and financial. Key findings reveal that advisors who specialize in providing agronomic information are positively inclined toward acting as weather and climate information intermediaries, based on influence and willingness to use climate information in providing many types of operational and tactical advice. Advisors who provide conservation advice appear to be considering weather and climate information when providing tactical and strategic land-use advice, but advisors who provide financial advice seem less inclined to act as climate information intermediaries. These findings highlight opportunities to increase the capacity of different types of advisors to enable them to be effective weather and climate information intermediaries.

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Laura Briley, Rachel Kelly, Emily D. Blackmer, Andrea Vega Troncoso, Richard B. Rood, Jeffrey Andresen, and Maria Carmen Lemos

Abstract

Consumers of climate model information face difficulty in assessing which models and projections are best for their particular needs. This difficulty stems from the abundance of climate information, as well as the relative inaccessibility or unavailability of information concerning a given model’s quality, trade-offs, and suitability for a particular geographic region or decision-making application. Consumer reports have traditionally provided potential consumers with background knowledge and a review of available products and services to help to make decisions. As a knowledge broker for climate information in the Great Lakes region, the Great Lakes Integrated Sciences and Assessments (GLISA) team has developed a suite of climate model consumer-report-style documents to help climate information consumers make decisions when selecting models and projections for their work. To develop the reports, GLISA reviewed examples of consumer reports from other sectors, relied on the feedback and advice of our ongoing Practitioner Working Group composed of real-world consumers, and incorporated otherwise-unavailable information from model developers. Due to close, continuing partnership with our Practitioner Working Group, the content and the formatting of our climate model consumer reports respond directly to the needs of consumers. Our reports therefore evolve based on needs of the practitioners as well as with the knowledge generated by our research in usability of climate knowledge. We pose that climate model consumer reports, especially when developed in the context of trusted user–knowledge broker relationships, contribute to making climate information more relevant to and usable by practitioners.

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Laura Briley, Rachel Dougherty, Emily D. Blackmer, Andrea Vega Troncoso, Richard B. Rood, Jeffrey Andresen, and Maria Carmen Lemos
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Linda Stalker Prokopy, Tonya Haigh, Amber Saylor Mase, Jim Angel, Chad Hart, Cody Knutson, Maria Carmen Lemos, Yun-Jia Lo, Jean McGuire, Lois Wright Morton, Jennifer Perron, Dennis Todey, and Melissa Widhalm

Abstract

As the climate in the midwestern United States becomes increasingly variable because of global climate change, it is critical to provide tools to the agricultural community to ensure adaptability and profitability of agricultural cropping systems. When used by farmers and their advisors, agricultural decision support tools can reduce uncertainty and risks in the planning, operation, and management decisions of the farm enterprise. Agricultural advisors have historically played a key role in providing information and guidance in these decisions. However, little is known about what these advisors know or think about weather and climate information and their willingness to incorporate this type of information into their advice to farmers. In this exploratory study, a diverse set of professionals who advise corn growers, including government, nonprofit, for-profit, and agricultural extension personnel, were surveyed in four states in the midwestern Corn Belt. Results from the survey indicate that advisors are more influenced by current weather conditions and 1–7-day forecasts than longer-term climate outlooks. Advisors predominantly consider historical weather trends and/or forecasts in their advice to farmers on short-term operational decisions versus longer-term tactical and strategic decisions. The main conclusion from this analysis is that opportunities exist to further engage the advisor community on weather and climate issues and, through them, the farmers who are managing the land.

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