31 Discontinuous climate services

Tuesday, 19 July 2011
Salon B (Asheville Renaissance)
Mark S. Brooks, NC State University, Raleigh, NC

Innovation plays an important role in science. Innovation is the process of creating something new, often as the result of experimentation and research. There are several different types of innovation; one such type is discontinuous innovation. Discontinuous innovations create or change markets in unexpected ways, thereby enabling customers to solve problems in new ways. Discontinuous innovations address similar market needs but do so by offering entirely different knowledge bases. A frequently cited example is the displacement of horse drawn carriages by the automobile and its effects on leisure and commerce. “Climate Services” are a form of discontinuous innovation.

Consider the inputs, activities, and outputs of any company or industry. Every industry's value chain has some direct or indirect sensitivity to climate variability or short-term changes in weather. Some studies and published estimates indicate that one-third of the gross domestic product of the United States is weather and climate sensitive. Actionable climate information may be needed by climate sensitive industries to mitigate the negative impacts of short and long term climate variability and capitalize on the favorable impacts.

Although “Climate Service” means something different to everyone, each meaning shares one commonality: engagement. Engagement is a full-duplex relationship. Information flows freely between customer and provider. Climate services provide climate-based decision support including but not limited to climate data, projections, and integration with other environmental or socioeconomic data sets and decision making processes. It is a service that lies at the intersection of the climate information needs of society and the capabilities of science – bridging the gap in between. Climate services provide solutions to existing problems with new knowledge.

To create climate services, firstly the information needs and climate sensitivities of society must be identified and well understood. Formal climate assessments are instrumental in this process as are collaborative relationships with external partners and clients. Second, climate data sets, software and technology that can address such needs must be identified and transitioned into operational products. This process is often referred to as technology transfer. A common framework is the technology-to-product-to-market (T-P-M) linkage, which helps decision makers align the capabilities and features of a new product/service with customer needs. At that point, important considerations become economies of scale, replicability, modularity, and vertical integration with climate service partners. Creativity, innovation, and multi-disciplinary collaboration are critical throughout each step. All the while, climate service providers must balance efficiency with flexibility.

An idealized model for discontinuous Climate Services, including the processes involved, engagement as a core competency, the management of innovation, and the role of technology transfer will be presented. Examples will be cited from the State Climate Office of North Carolina, where scientists and developers have created over 20 unique climate service products and tools.

The State Climate Office of North Carolina is the primary source for NC weather and climate information and is involved in all aspects of climate research, education, and extension services. The State Climate Office is a public-service center, part of the UNC system, housed at North Carolina State University and was one of the first officially recognized state climate offices by the American Association of State Climatologists.

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