Important Powerpoint Presentation “Meeting User Needs: Climate Service Limits, Ideals, & Realities” By Bruce Hewiston

At the October 24-28 2011  WCRP OSC Climate Research in Service to Society in Denver there were the usual presentations of regional climate forecasts decades from now. As readers of my weblog know, I have concluded these have no skill, and are misleading policymakers. 

There was an exception to this view in a presentation by Bruce Hewitson  of the Universtiy of Capetown titled  [h/t Koji Dairaku]

Meeting User Needs:Climate Service Limits, Ideals, & Realities”  [note this is a large file]

While, he does use regional climate predictions in part of his analysis, and he inaccurately assumes (in slide 13) that predictability increases for longer than decadal time periods,  most of the paper follows closely the recommended bottom-up vulnerabiltiy approach that we have presented in our paper

Pielke Sr., R.A., R. Wilby, D. Niyogi, F. Hossain, K. Dairuku, J. Adegoke, G. Kallos, T. Seastedt, and K. Suding, 2011: Dealing with complexity and extreme events using a bottom-up, resource-based vulnerability perspective. AGU Monograph on Complexity and Extreme Events in Geosciences, in press. 

Hewiston discusses the concept of “climate services” which unlike the terminology “climate change”, covers climate effects even if it was not changing. Climate has always been an issue with respect to societal and environmental resources.

Hewiston lists his take-home message as

Climate services do not simply build a knowledge chain (with weak links?) between producer and user communities

Climate services contribute a component to a messy knowledge network that shapes the decision space of a community’s risk management

This changes the dynamics!

The main conclusion from the Hewitson talk is that, with respect to the use of IPCC type downscaled climate predictions,

But, users need information for:
• Urban storm water development
• Inter‐annual variability for rolling mul0‐year water resource planning
• Soil moisture & heat stress for dryland agriculture
• Extreme event frequency for peri‐urban flooding
• Chill units for viticulture and apple crops
• Etc.

In the decision space of many/most users, this climate service [meaning the multi-decadal regional climate forecasts] is not very useful.

Also, he writes

Concluding thoughts

1. Climate services bridge communities, language, and value systems
2. Scientific products are miss‐aligned with most user’s decision risk framework, in which climate is only one factor
3. Uncertainty language casts doubt; likelihood messages inform
4. Information on the exceedence in time, space, and frequency of user‐defined thresholds is powerful
5. The issues of responsibility, accountability, credibility and values is largely missing from the climate services dialogue


In climate services, the three questions that producers and users need to collectively address:

1. Is the message plausible: Does it fall within the envelope of known possible variability?
2. Is the message defensible: On a regional scale, am I able to explain the understanding in terms of physical processes and dynamics?
3. Is the message actionable: at the time and space scales of user decision making – can I support the subjective risk‐management decision of a user? (Would I spend my own money?)

This talk by Bruce Hewitson is a refreshing viewpoint which needs to be encouraged.

source of image

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