Comment on the BAMS article “Two Time Scales for The Price Of One (Almost)” By Goddard Et Al 2012

There is an interesting essay in the May issue of BAMS that urges a focus on seasonal and decadal prediction. It is an informative article, but it completely leaves out the issue of where the huge funding of multi-decadal climate prediction fits. The essay is

Goddard, Lisa, James W. Hurrell, Benjamin P. Kirtman, James Murphy, Timothy Stockdale, Carolina Vera, 2012: Two Time Scales for The Price Of One (Almost). Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 93, 621–629.   doi:

The article starts with the text [highlight added]

While some might call Decadal Prediction the new kid on the block, it would be better to consider it the latest addition to the Climate Prediction family. Decadal Prediction is the fascinating baby that all wish to talk about, with such great expectations for what she might someday accomplish. Her older brother, Seasonal Prediction, is now less talked about by funding agencies and the research community. Given his capabilities, he might seem mature enough to take care of himself, but in reality he is still just an adolescent and has yet to reach his full potential. Much of what he has learned so far, however, can be passed to his baby sister. Decadal could grow up faster than Seasonal did because she has the benefit of her older brother’s experiences. They have similar needs and participate in similar activities, and thus to the extent that they can learn from each other, their maturation is in some ways a mutually reinforcing process. And, while the attention that Decadal brings to the household might seem to distract from Seasonal, the presence of a sibling is actually healthy for Seasonal because it draws attention to the need for and use of climate information, which can bring funding and new research to strengthen the whole Climate Prediction family.

The conclusion reads

The investments described will take considerable human and financial resources and a commitment to sustain them. Compared to the costs of adaptation, the costs of implementing these recommendations will be low, but substantial enough to highlight the need for international coordination to minimize duplication and share the lessons learned throughout the communities involved. These are actions that would be prudent even in the absence of climate change. However, given that climate change has focused global attention on the need for climate information, climate services could build adaptation incrementally through better awareness, preparedness, and resiliency to climate variability at all time scales.

Seasonal and Decadal should not be treated as competitors for the attention of the scientific community. Rather, we should enable them to “play nicely” together, in order to maximize the efforts invested in each.

The essay, however, ignores the subject of multi-decadal climate predictions, and where it fits in this family. One reason for the neglect, of course, is the implicit assumption that such predictions are not contributing signficiantly to the assessment of either seasonal or decadal predictability.

However, I propose the following. If the image of a child and toddler are intended to represent seasonal and decadal prediction, respectively, the image below captures multi-decadal climate prediction. :-)

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