6.6 Seasonal climate forecasts and their value to society

Wednesday, 12 January 2000: 11:30 AM
David Changnon, Northern Illinois Univ., DeKalb, IL; and S. A. Changnon Jr.

During the last 10 years the uses of seasonal climate forecasts by weather-sensitive decision makers in agribusiness, electric utilities, and water resources have been assessed. Initial assessments during 1990-1994 focused on private and public sector forecasts and found that less than 20% of the potential users actually made decisions based on forecasts, and users assigned small monetary value to the applications. Most complained that these forecasts provided too little information and inadequate time to implement the forecast information into decisions. For these reasons and others most decision makers did not place much value on forecasts. Another assessment of usage occurred in 1996/97, 12 months after the issuance of new long-lead seasonal forecasts by the Climate Prediction Center. Because these forecasts addressed a number of the prior concerns such as altering the format and content of the outlooks, the awareness and use of the new seasonal forecasts in utility decisions increased from 7% to 35%. Furthermore, a large number of agribusinesses indicated the annual value of use increased >$100,000, while more than half of the utility decision makers indicated that the value associated with the use of the seasonal forecast was between $20,000 and $100,000 each year. An extensive survey of decision makers was conducted after the 1997/98 El Niño event. The level of seasonal forecast usage, 47% of all sampled, was much higher than the 32% level found in the 1996/97 assessment. El Niño-related economic benefits reported by utility officials ranged from $200,000 to $30 million, and diverse applications were made by water managers. The sequence of assessments reveals ever increasing usage, going from general information uses to applications in specific decisions, and with increasing monetary value. These assessments continue to identify the kinds of interactions required to further enhance or tailor use of climate information.
- Indicates paper has been withdrawn from meeting
- Indicates an Award Winner