Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Note from DC: The Case for a Climate Service

I'm listening to Chet Koblinsky, Director of the Climate Program Office at NOAA ,talk about the need for a nation "Climate Service" along the lines of the weather service. He began by pointing out how extreme events in our weather increasing need to be attributed to either normal forcings or to forcings due to change in the longer term climate. We have a greater predictive understanding of the longer term climate trends, but not a lot of current knowledge on how to pin today's weather to these trends. Recently, Congress, following the lead of mayors and governors who have demanded more information on regional and local climate information, is moving toward the idea of a comprehensive climate information service for the national need.

NOAA spends about 250 million dollars a year on climate science and information. Much of this is spent on maintaining observation posts and information streams. The remainder is spent on analysis, modeling, and information services to the public. 

In order to fill the emerging need for a climate service, NOAA would need to expand its ability to assemble and predict climate features at the regional level. This means creating new observation capabilities and also models with higher resolution (a major computer challenge). 

Because climate research and information services are also done at NASA and other agencies, the proposed service would need to be a multi-agency effort. A good example of a prototype for this service is the National Integrated Drought Information Service that the Western Governors Association requested in the late 1990s. Authorized by Congress in 2006, this service provides regional predictions for drought across the US.

So we can look ahead to NOAA and other agencies that are compiling global climate and weather information to come together to provide governors, mayors, and other decision makers with the regional climate information they need... 

more soon

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