16th Conference on Climate Variability and Change


The Pacific ENSO Applications Center (PEAC): The First Decade

Eileen L. Shea, East-West Center, Honolulu, HI; and N. Colasacco

The concept of a Pacific ENSO Applications Center (PEAC) emerged from a 1992 Workshop organized jointly by the University of Hawaii and NOAA’s Office of Global Programs. That initial Workshop provided an opportunity for representatives of the climate research community to meet with individuals representing potential forecast user communities in the American Flag and U.S. affiliated Pacific Islands . Sectors represented at this meeting included disaster management, water and power utilities and fisheries among others. The 1992 Workshop confirmed the potential usefulness of ENSO forecasts in these sectors and Workshop participants specifically set a long-term goal to Establish a Pacific ENSO Applications Center to provide:

· Routine production and delivery of tailored forecasts; · An institutional focus for translation, interpretation, communication, education and outreach; and · Enhanced partnership among the scientific community, government agencies and local decision makers.

With funding from NOAA’s Office of Global Programs, the PEAC pilot project began in 1994 as a partnership of the University of Hawaii, the University of Guam, NOAA (NWS and OGP) and the Pacific Basin Development Council (the Governors of the four American Flag Pacific Islands). Initially, PEAC focused on: improving historical datasets with an initial emphasis on rainfall; expanding access to and interpreting ENSO forecast products being developed by NWS, the IRI and other forecasting and research institutions in the region; expanding public awareness and understanding of the ENSO cycle and the potential societal benefits of forecast applications; and identifying specific applications opportunities. Initial steps toward the transition of PEAC from research to operations began in 2000 with discussions in the Pacific Region, at NCEP/CPC and OGP.

The 1997-1998 event provided an opportunity for the PEAC team to undertake efforts aimed at assessing the consequences of ENSO for the jurisdictions it serves. PEAC scientists and residents of the Pacific Island jurisdictions served by PEAC believe that advance warning through forecasts coupled with PEAC’s focused program of education and outreach helped mitigate the negative impacts of the 1997-1998 El Niño. While acknowledging the anecdotal (“indirect”) nature of such knowledge, the National Research Council’s report entitled “Making Climate Forecasts Matter” points to the usefulness of information on the responses of weather-sensitive sectors and actors to past climate forecasts as a guide to the future use of climate forecasts (National Research Council, 1999).

Coinciding with the tenth anniversary of the initiation of PEAC as a research pilot project (in 1994), the author has undertaken a thorough review of PEAC operations that will help move beyond anecdotal evidence toward structured analysis of the role that climate forecasts played in mitigating the effects of recent ENSO events in the Pacific Islands. The PEAC review is enabling scientists, decision-makers and funding agencies to develop a sense of how well this program is currently addressing some of the general design principles highlighted in the NRC report including issues related to:

· Successfully matching climate information messages with the needs of specific target groups; · Consideration of a comprehensive information delivery system; · Using participatory approaches to enhance information delivery (and application); and · Combining climate information with a variety of intervention approaches (NRC, 1999).

The PEAC review was designed to address the following objectives:

· Assessment of the effectiveness of PEAC’s approach to establishing and sustaining an interactive process of dialogue among scientists, forecasters and users; and

· Identification of critical information gaps and future research needs associated with improving the development and application of climate forecast products for Pacific Island jurisdictions.

Employing written surveys, interviews with users, small-group discussions and a regional user workshop, the PEAC review project is providing important information about the programmatic and institutional aspects of PEAC’s organization and operation as a partnership between NOAA (research and operations), universities and the intended users of PEAC products. In this context, the project is already contributing to the development of specific recommendations for future climate forecast products, education and outreach programs based on a client-based evaluation of the quality, usefulness and usability of past PEAC products and activities.

Recalling the general design principles highlighted in the NRC report “Making Climate Forecasts Matter” (NRC, 1999), the author will provide a summary of key findings and recommendations from the PEAC review project with particular attention given to:

· How effectively PEAC products have served the information needs of intended user communities and how well plans for future PEAC products are aligned with identified information gaps and user needs;

· How effectively PEAC’s structure and activities contribute to a comprehensive information delivery system for the region and what could be done to strengthen that system as well as PEAC’s specific contributions;

· Lessons learned from PEAC experiences in engaging scientists, forecasters and users in a participatory process of forecast design, delivery, application and evaluation; and

· PEAC’s role in the emergence of an integrated climate information system for the Pacific region.

In this context, the author hopes to identify some of the specific characteristics one might seek in an effective program of climate services in the Pacific and highlight the scientific, institutional and communications challenges associated with designing, implementing and sustaining such climate services.

Poster Session 4, Poster Session: Climate Predictions on Seasonal and Interannual Time Scales
Wednesday, 12 January 2005, 2:30 PM-2:30 PM

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