4.5 Regional Climate Services: Taking advantage of climate events to advance climate literacy and inform decisions

Tuesday, 19 July 2011: 11:30 AM
Salon A (Asheville Renaissance)
Zack S. Guido, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ; and D. Ferguson

One of the strongest La Niña events in the last 60 years became entrenched in August 2010 and signaled that the Southwest U.S. was likely going to experience below average precipitation during the winter. This event provided a good opportunity to develop a regional climate service that informed the U.S. Southwest of the evolving drought conditions and the underlying climate connections. This talk highlights recent organizational and content strategies by the Climate Assessment for the Southwest (CLIMAS) to provide regional climate services that advance climate literacy, provides valuable decision support for resource managers, and satisfies a demand for climate information not provided by other regional climate service providers.

The Climate Assessment for the Southwest (CLIMAS) drew on its long history of developing information publications to produce an event-based product, The La Niña Drought Tracker (Tracker). The Tracker was a pithy, two page document that was published each month between December 2010 and April 2011 when La Niña impacts are most heavily felt in the Southwest. The central goals of the Tracker were to inform the region of current and projected drought conditions, advance climate literacy, and fulfill a niche not provided by other climate service providers in the region—namely the climate connection to the evolving drought conditions in the region. The Tracker was disseminated to the CLIMAS listserv containing more than 1,700 subscribers and was routinely viewed by more than 300 resource managers and decision makers each month, as well as numerous media sources. Initial feedback identified the product as an apt boundary object used by researchers and resource managers as well as a source of information managers called on to inform decisions. The success of the Tracker is leading to the development of the Monsoon Tracker that also has the same three goals.

This talk places the usefulness of the Tracker in the context of medium-term climate services. Many climate services require several-to-many months of work and therefore are difficult to undertake because they require resources that often do not generate substantial financial returns (i.e leverage funding) or present opportunities for publications. Yet, they are vital to satisfying stakeholder demand, creating new and strengthening existing partnerships, aiding decisions, advancing climate literacy, and fostering future projects—main tenets of a climate service program. It is therefore vital for climate services providers to be able to respond to medium term services, which has been done effectively at CLIMAS through the use of a core office which is partly dedicated to rapidly responding to informational needs.

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