WMO: Near-term climate prediction‘coming of age’


Bridging the gap between shorter-term seasonal forecasts and long-term climate projections has long been a dream of climate scientists.

Now a review paper, published by a team of international climate scientists, and led by authors at the Met Office and the Lamont-Doherty Earth Institute, validates the capability for near-term climate predictions out to a few years ahead. These predictions are expected to become increasingly useful for society, for government and business planning. And they have the potential to provide increasing resilience to communities at useful timescales for planning. Many societal decisions, such as flood and drought management and international disaster risk reduction, need to be made on timescales best served by near-term climate predictions.

The paper published in the journal Nature Climate Change shows the prospects for skilful near-term climate predictions when climate models are started from real-time observations of both the ocean and the atmosphere.  These coupled ocean-atmosphere climate models also incorporate the effects of anthropogenic greenhouse gases and natural effects, such as solar variability on climate.

The article describes the work and vision of the World Climate Research Programme's Grand Challenge on Near-Term Climate Prediction. The paper also highlights operational production of decadal climate predictions coordinated through WMO.

"Near-term" is synonymous with "decadal" and hence covers climate predictions between one and around ten years ahead. Skilful predictions on these timescales require coupled initialized from the current climate state, most importantly from the ocean. The newly published article explores both the current skill of such predictions, which is comparable to that of seasonal predictions, as well as the challenges and opportunities ahead. Progress on decadal predictions will bridge the gap between current seasonal forecasts and century-scale climate change projections, allowing a seamless climate service delivery chain to be established.

PavelKabat, the World Meteorological Organization's Chief Scientist and Director of Research, commented on the article's publication: “Climate predictions at decadal time scales are produced routinely now to international standards, allowing this nascent field to develop further and to adapt to society's needs. This achievement is an outstanding example of long-standing science investment and ongoing collaboration between entities such as the World Climate Research Programme and international partners in research and national prediction centers.”

Both the paper and the Grand Challenge on Near-Term Climate Prediction were led by Adam Scaife (UK Met Office and University of Exeter) and YochananKushnir (Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Colombia University). A press release by the UK Met Office, Professor Scaife's home institution, puts the paper and decadal predictions into a wider context of their societal value, integration into climate services, and climate-aware decision making.

Source: WMO

Editor Hao Jing