Although substantial work has been done concerning the value or potential value of climate and weather forecasts, and some concerning various barriers and bridges to use of forecast implications, there is much to be done to increase their usefulness. This paper will present some findings from a NOAA Office of Global Programs research project concerning improved water resource management through increased use of climate information.
Application of climate forecasts faces interesting barriers beyond those posed by questions of the expected value of applications of forecasts of varying levels of reliability. One simple approach to identifying barriers was undertaken in a study of a number of Native American Tribes and Pueblos, and selected water resource managers in three Western States. Because climate forecasts are relatively new, we conducted a series of interviews in which we first inquired about the current uses of climate and weather information (we did not distinguish them). The second focus concerned wishes for climate information. In order to effectively inquire about the potential use of a nearly unknown tool in well-known processes, we asked for descriptions of the major decisions that each manager makes, going through a month-by-month "decision calendar". This simple approach served to teach us as much as the interviewees wanted to share, about their decision environments, and to narrow the discussions. Subsequently, within the first interviews, we also made a brief introduction of the web page of climate information which our collaborators at the Climate Diagnostics Center of NOAA provided. We combined our advance preparation with subsequent additional research and inquiries in order to summarize our findings into a report which we shared with those who had helped us or been interviewed. The combination of the various decision calendars helped to identify patterns of common interests, some not surprising and some new to us and potentially valuable in unexpected applications. The report and our follow-up interviews in a second and third year in many cases made it possible for us to receive corrections and to be useful in the learning processes stimulated in some cases by the introduction of the new information.
The presentation will feature an explanation of the simple method we used and suggestions on how it can be easily applied in a wide variety of contexts, for economical and useful results. The major findings will also be featured, from the first two years of the study. We will be able to provide a comparison of first year and second year reports, and there will be some explanation of the third year efforts as well. The most important finding is probably that there are some features of managers' and information users' decision environments which significantly affect the need for timing of some forecasts, and that introduction of the new information begins a process of evolution of the uses and applications. Finally, extension of the methods to a different area and case study will be briefly described.