Climate Information & Services

Climate Information & Services “at a glance”

Why climate information and services?

‘Adapt to what exactly?’ is the first question a decision-maker may ask when faced with the need to prepare for the consequences of climate change. Without knowing the expected changes in climatic conditions, proactive and anticipatory adaptation approaches are difficult. We might identify no-regret/low-regret measures that are suitable to different climate change scenarios, but the more we know, the better our responses can be. In a changing climate, we therefore need usable climate information and services to support adaptive management and decision-making.

What are climate information products and services?

Tangible climate information products range from global emission scenarios and climate model outputs to local impact and vulnerability assessment results. Generating these products requires data and information from various fields of research. Climate information products can describe historical, current and future climate conditions. They can entail future predictions and projections on monthly, seasonal or decadal timescales and their impact on natural and human systems. Climate services can be understood as those activities that deal with generating and providing this information to a wide range of users in order to support climate resilient development. As we are dealing with a rather new field of activity, the concept of climate services still needs to be defined more clearly in close collaboration with users.

Who provides climate information and services?

With regards to providing climate change information and services, there is no long-standing, well-established tradition. Taking future climate developments into account is a rather new and fast-growing field of activities and actors. As there are various types of climate information, there are various sources for support, ranging from national research institutes to National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs) to global and regional information platforms. Recently, a growing number of governments are starting to customise climate information and target it to specific users based on their experience in weather forecasting. The formal UN-wide framework that supports the development of climate services is the Global Framework for Climate Services (GFCS) led by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

What makes climate information usable?

In order to make a well-informed adaptation decision, decision-makers and their advisors have to make use of climate information. The information provider-user relationship is crucial here. Due to different perspectives, there is often a gap between what providers understand as useful information and what users recognise as usable. Information providers may not completely know potential users’ decision-making processes and contexts, so sometimes the information that is produced remains unused. Or given their limited understanding of the matter, decision-makers might misinterpret climate information and make the wrong decisions. Explaining the level of uncertainty associated with a particular product is also vital, and therefore the exchange and dialogue between the user and the provider side is of utmost importance.