9.3 The Integrated Information Systems (IIS) Approach to Climate Services: NIDIS and NIHHIS

Thursday, 11 January 2018: 9:00 AM
Ballroom E (ACC) (Austin, Texas)
Hunter M. Jones, NOAA, Silver Spring, TX; and J. Trtanj, R. Pulwarty, and S. Giltz

The landscape of climate service providers, as well as concepts for what comprises a climate service, is becoming increasingly diverse. Several attempts to summarize these concepts have been made. One such summary recently concluded that climate services could be defined as “production and delivery of climate related information for any kind of decision-making” (Harjanne, 2017). While this working definition that captures an essential element of climate services, it does not adequately address the importance of co-development of information, evaluation and feedback, and sustained engagement with the decision-making community to understand decision-making contexts and define demand for services.

Recognizing that climate services are not a unidirectional provision of information, but rather an ongoing dialogue between climate experts and practitioners in a variety of fields with varying levels of familiarity with climate information, one approach taken by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is the development of climate services in the form of Integrated Information Systems (IIS). IISes are climate services that endeavor to move beyond the “loading-dock” approach to science-informed decision making. Integrated information systems prioritize convening of decision makers and scientists, translation of information, ongoing collaboration, and mediation of different interests to create services that are adaptable and efficient (Cash et al., 2006).

The first such IIS focused on drought: the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS). It was created via a partnership between the Western Governors’ Association (WGA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in 2003 to “change the way [the United States] prepares for and responds to droughts” (Western Governors’ Association, 2004). In the intervening years, NIDIS has evolved to include a strong set of interagency partners (including FEMA, EPA, DOI, DOC, DOE, USACE and USDA), transboundary engagement with Canada and Mexico, and regional Drought Early Warning Systems (DEWs) that address shared challenges across watersheds in North America.

Building on the success of NIDIS, a second IIS, the National Integrated Heat Health Information System (NIHHIS), was launched by a White House announcement in June of 2015 as a joint effort of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the NOAA. In the intervening two years this new IIS has rapidly expanded to include interagency partners (including ASPR, CDC, EPA, FEMA, USDA, NIOSH,NOAA, OSHA, and SAMHSA), regional pilots in the Southwest, Southeast and Northeast designed to build demand and understand context for climate services, and transboundary engagements with Mexico and Canada facilitated by the North American Climate Services Partnership.

But IISes are not the only NOAA approach to delivering environmental information. In this session on the National Weather Service’s Impact-Based Decision Support Services (IDSS) we will explore the complementarity of these two concepts, and will share lessons learned from implementing Integrated Information Systems that are directly relevant to IDSS. Central to the provision of climate services through NIDIS and NIHHIS are the National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center (WPC) and Climate Prediction Center (CPC) - especially in the form of the IDPGIS service (NWS Integrated Dissemination Program (IDP) GIS Services). Additionally, the Weather Ready Nation initiative has been not only an inspiration for the NIHHIS approach to engaging the private sector, but is also quickly becoming an important partner in reaching audiences concerned with extreme heat and human health.

The IIS approach has, through its interagency and regional engagements, identified a number of challenges that are being addressed through research, decisionmaker engagement, and coproduction of information - and a few challenges for which solutions remain elusive, such as the difficulty of obtaining detailed data on health outcomes. However, these challenges have illuminated needs, and driven the discovery of best practices from within both the research community and operationally in our regional engagements. Finally, collaborations with a panoply of organizations and components of our own agency, from Weather Forecast Offices (WFOs) to Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments (RISA) grantees, has enabled us to apply the strengths of the entire agency to addressing societal challenges. This talk will cover needs, challenges, best practices, and collaborations as they pertain to IISes and as they may apply to IDSS.

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