Wednesday, 12 February 2003: 3:30 PM
Rapid response to the 2002 drought in Colorado: an experiment in regional climate services
The impact of climate variability and extreme events can provide a natural laboratory for NOAA and the nation to learn what and how national, regional, and local climate services should be structure and implemented. If a working relationship already exists between providers and potential users of climate information, an opportunity emerges for implementing rapid response experimental climate services when a focusing event such as the 2002 drought in Colorado occurs. Under the auspices of the NOAA-CIRES Western Water Regional Integrated Sciences Assessment (RISA), we have developed partnerships with a spectrum of potential and actual users of climate information in Colorado. The regional drought conditions have provided an impetus for users to consider new and different applications of climate information and experimental forecast products from outside of their normal operating plans. Our rapid response in experimental climate services for the region involved a variety of approaches. Our approaches have included creating and regularly updating summaries of current climate information and outlooks (both operational and experimental), a dramatic increase in the number of presentations at users' meetings and for the media, participating in operations related conference calls and strategy meetings, working in close coordination with the Colorado State University based state climatologist and cooperative extension offices, and initiating user focused research addressing questions related to current climate conditions (drought and the emerging El Niņo conditions). In addition to questions related to the duration, extent, and severity of the current drought conditions, there has been interest in assessment of the current drought conditions in the context of longer-term climate variations (e.g., how extreme or expected occurrence interval).
Rapid response experimental climate services represent a short-term, locally focused implementation of NOAA's vision for a regional to national integrated climate services program. Our rapid response efforts to provide climate information and experimental forecast products in response to the 2002 drought in Colorado complement and inform the longer research and development programs ongoing within the RISA project. We envision our rapid response to Colorado drought will be one of series of prototyping projects over the next few years, and is designed to aid in the development of operational regional and national climate services.