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Climate Services

A Policy Statement of the American Meteorological Society
(Adopted by the AMS Council 17 September 2015)

The purpose of this statement is to characterize the benefits of climate services to the United States and the international community, and to foster improved climate services and delivery of those services to users by encouraging:  1) communication, cooperation, and collaboration among all sectors; 2) the scientific, operational, and financial success of all of the sectors involved in climate services; and 3) the leveraging, wherever possible, of resources among all sectors.  

Climate services (CS) may be defined as providing scientifically based information and products that enhance users’ knowledge and understanding about the impacts of climate on their decisions and actions. These services are made most effective through collaboration between providers and users.

Climate services support society’s continuing effort to be productive and prosperous, and to manage impacts from atmospheric, oceanic, cryospheric, and land phenomena, over periods ranging from days (climate-related extreme events) to decades, and over regions, from highly localized to the entire planet.  Some examples of CS include, 1) past climate: data stewardship and rescue, reanalysis, and historical climate summaries; 2) present climate:  observations, monitoring, climate summaries, reports, and studies, to estimate the type, range, and likelihood of variations of climate variables relevant to planning and applications at national, state, and local levels; and 3) future climate: forecasts and projections of climate conditions for use in mitigation, planning, and adaptation. 


The climate services enterprise in the United States comprises a wide variety of entities (not identified here in their entirety). The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) provides core capabilities in support of the delivery of climate services, through its National Weather Service, National Environmental Satellite Data and Information Service, and Regional Climate Centers.  Other federal agencies also provide climate services at national and regional levels.  There are also efforts being implemented as part of the President’s Climate Action Plan that support the climate service enterprise. State climate offices are primary deliverers of climate services at the state and local level. 

In addition, many other entities play an important role in developing and delivering climate services.  These include: federally funded groups such as NOAA’s Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments (RISA) Program, Department of Interior’s Climate Science Centers, and U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Land Grant Colleges’ cooperative extension offices; universities; nongovernmental organizations (NGOs); and private-sector businesses large and small. Sample lists of some climate services are available at http://www.climate.gov (government); http://www.sab.noaa.gov/Reports/CPTF_RPT_FINAL.pdf (private firms); and http://library.duke.edu/research/subject/guides/ngo_guide/ngo_database.html (NGOs).

The roles of the public, private, and academic sectors in CS are sometimes difficult to distinguish.  Strong relationships and frequent communication among sectors are essential to ensure that responsibilities are coordinated, unnecessary redundancies are minimized, and issues among members of the enterprise are resolved effectively.  Organizations such as  AMS play a key role in fostering such communication.  Because no single sector can satisfy the demand for CS on its own, it is clear that society is best served when the sectors work together.

Current status:

The existing suite of CS is the result of sustained support over many decades by governments (state and local), universities, non-governmental organizations and philanthropic foundations, and the private sector.  Manifestations of weather and climate variability, including extreme temperatures (e.g., heat waves, cold spells), drought, and flooding, are of obvious importance to agriculture, our national forests and other ecosystems, and water resources; and to the energy, insurance, construction, transportation, and recreation industries, public health, and national security.  


Assessing the value of climate services to the public and the private sector is complicated by the inherent difficulty of placing a dollar value on a “public good.”  Also, private companies are understandably reticent to describe in detail their use of and profit from such services.Quantitative information on climate impacts and the value of climate services would help inform, guide, and justify public and private investment in CS infrastructure and capabilities.

Recommendations:

  • Federal and state governments should continue to play leadership roles and assume considerable responsibility in: 1) building and maintaining observing, modeling, and data stewardship systems; 2) ensuring universal access to basic information; 3) sustaining and enhancing products and services that address user needs; 4) providing information for the general benefit of society, and soliciting user feedback to improve products and services; and 5) providing funding opportunities for CS centers.
  • The private sector should play a key role in developing new products, collaborating with other sectors, responding to specific requests for CS, and making recommendations to the federal and state governments on national, regional, and state research agendas and funding priorities.
  • Universities, in collaboration with state climate offices, the private sector, and the federal government, should strive to educate a new generation of professionals who are proficient in both science and its societal applications and to collaboratively develop and share research applications of the natural and social sciences to advance CS.
  • Members of the CS enterprise should: 1) accept the responsibility to engage with users to realize the proper use and potential value of CS; 2) collaborate, when possible, with other sector members in assisting users to understand and properly use CS; 3) identify users’ needs; and 4) identify opportunities for new applications of climate information.
  • AMS should maintain, on its website and social media formats, a list of climate-services providers and foster workshops and symposia at the Annual Meeting and other venues to promote closer ties among the provider and user community.

                                      
[This statement is considered in force until September 2020 unless superseded by a new statement issued by the AMS Council before this date]

1 National Academies, 2003:  Fair Weather:  Effective Partnerships in Weather and Climate Services, ISBN-10: 0-309-08746-5, National Academies Press, paperback, 238 pages.