by Andrew Kruczkiewicz and Henry Karemeri Ndungu – Columbia University
In recent years an increase in temporal and spatial resolution of satellite observations has afforded new lenses of climate research. Initiatives have been established to explore the value of integrating these data into climate and weather research, increasing the understanding of modes of climate variability, microclimates and precipitation processes, amongst others. A persistent question however remains: with technological advancements in satellite engineering and subsequent gains in climate science, are gains in societal applications guaranteed?
Climate services are anything that involves the production, translation, transfer and use of Climate Knowledge and Information in climate-informed decision making and climate-smart policy and planning (GFCS). Arguably the most important element of the definition is the action. Without action, a climate service is simply data, practically useless, regardless of its format.
A multitude of climate services have been developed to aid in assessing climate and weather risk, but is it working? Are disaster managers better at understanding the probability of different types of floods or drought for instance, and further, able to act on that information? Would that acting upon that information reduce community risks to such hazards? Would such action contribute to learning and increase communities’ resilience?
While the end goal of action is consistent, the format of a climate service can be widely varied. Differences could include the interface, complexity of the data targeted end-user and, timeliness/availability, among many others.
Further, considering the subset of the humanitarian end-users, the diversity of decision making processes beg a tailored set of climate services. Building climate-resilient communities and minimizing (or averting) the impacts of a climate shock or weather-related disasters are examples of situations in which climate services may be used when planning for humanitarian interventions.
Many times lacking a background in climate science, humanitarian decision makers have questions regarding where to start when exploring the value of climate services. Would it be best to explore what has already been done in search of an analog decision-making process? Perhaps it is useful to review the many climate services that have already been developed first? Or alternatively, maybe beginning with a dataset that seems relevant, for example rainfall, and work forwards from there, identifying climate services using those data and thereafter evaluating impact.
Within the emerging space of climate services, many questions exist, most without a definitive answer. Exploring decisions and timescales is however considered
pertinent in terms of increasing the value of climate services, but the best way to do that is up for debate.
One of the recent application trends of climate services has been the utilization of open data, particularly in the context of historical climate and socioeconomic data. This data aids in understanding the interaction of the climate and society from a historical context, which in turn allows for patterns to be identified, enhancing forecasts.
While building new weather stations and acquiring data from them may increase understanding of weather, this data could never take the place of historical data, especially relative to an understanding of past climate conditions and extreme events, including droughts, floods and severe tropical cyclones, where other sources, such as cultural knowledge are of immense value.
Further, the opportunities presented by earth observations are plentiful. Continuously the amount of data derived from existing satellites and sensors increases. When these tested data are coupled with new, high-resolution products, the potential to infuse satellite technology within community level problem solving becomes more likely.
With an increase in climate and weather risks it is important to remember the end goal of taking action, of which a large part is identifying when and where to take action, across different timescales, and with utmost responsibility and accountability to those most in need of such services, and build their resilience. This session will delve deeper into the role of earth observations, open data and climate services in linking climate and weather data to action.