The Royal Meteorological Society Conference Workshop ‘From Climate Research to Climate Services’ aimed to bring together examples of how climate research is being translated into information and services to assist decision-making in government, business, and by the general public.
The workshop was led by Jane Strachan, a Knowledge Transfer Associate based in NCAS-Climate at the University of Reading, and David Stephenson, Joint Met Office Chair in the Statistical Analysis of Weather and Climate based at the University of Exeter. Following an introduction to the aims of the workshop, a series of short presentations were given, followed by an open panel discussion about how climate science should be undertaken so that it produces results that are applicable to decision-making, without detracting from excellent science.
The presentations began with a summary of the work that the Met Office is undertaking with Network Rail (Thornton et al., 2011). Erika Palin described the use of a Climate Impacts Risk assessment Framework (CIRF), which looks at the vulnerability of operations within an organization to both current climate and weather variability, and future climate change. Working closely with rail sector experts, they were able to identify decision thresholds related to climate variables. An example used was high temperatures causing rail buckling, which can lead to network disruption and delays. Together they were able to identify different temperature thresholds corresponding to different responses. Climate projections can then be applied to understand future vulnerability.
A second example of Met Office collaboration with industry followed with a presentation by Hazel Thornton, on a Climate Change Risk Assessment for the UK Electricity Networks (McColl et al., 2012). The risk assessment undertaken focused on the vulnerability of electricity networks to extreme weather events, such as wind, gales, lightning, and snow. They discovered that 8% of all faults from 1980 to present day were weather-related. Through analysis of the relationships between network faults and meteorological data, it was found, for example, that convective available potential energy was a good proxy for the number of lightning strikes. Such quantitative relationships can be used to assess future climate-related risk.
Emma Irvine from the University of Reading presented work being undertaken with the aviation sector, focusing on the development of approaches to mitigate the climate impact of aviation. The IPCC estimates that the aviation sector is responsible for around 3.5% of anthropogenic climate change (including non-CO2 effects). Emma's work, as part of the European Commission's Reducing Emissions from Aviation by Changing Trajectories for the Benefit of Climate (REACT4C) project, investigates aircraft re-routing designed to minimize the impact of aircraft emissions on climate, whilst additionally minimizing time, cost, and fuel (Irvine et al., 2011). The climate impact varies with route location, height, weather, and season. The aim of the collaborative work is to extend current operational flight planning tools to take into account environmental effects, alongside the development of concepts for future green aircraft.
A summary of the Met Office National Severe Weather Warning Service was given by Robert Neal, who works within the Met Office ensemble forecasting applications group. Using feedback from the public and emergency services, new methods of communicating severe weather have been developed. Impacts thresholds now vary regionally and warnings are presented by an area on a map rather than a shaded county. Additionally, using ensemble forecasting allows a likelihood component to be introduced (Neal et al., 2012). To make the warnings more relevant, information is now given in terms of the risk as opposed to the hazard; for example, for medium level disruption associated with strong winds warnings include ‘more widespread tree damage, slates dislodged from roofs, and risk of injury from flying debris’. Robert also presented an example of using ensembles forecasts to develop the Heat Health Watch system, providing hot weather alerts for vulnerable sectors of the population.
Jane Strachan then discussed her work with the insurance industry through a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) between the University of Reading and Willis, a global reinsurance broker. High-resolution global climate models (based on the Hadley Centre Unified Model) are increasingly able to simulate important aspects of tropical-cyclone activity (Strachan et al., 2012). This approach holds value for scientific understanding of tropical-cyclone behaviour, and also for insurance industry risk assessment, when considering how climate variability affects location, frequency, and intensity of extreme weather events, and subsequently the associated risk. Integrating dynamical simulation results into the risk assessment process, through the co-development of insurance industry tools, is assisting risk analysts in the exploration and evaluation of climate-related risk.
The final presentation was given by Nick Bearman, from the University of East Anglia, who discussed a novel approach of using sound to represent uncertainty in the UK Climate Projections. Nick's research is based on user studies to determine whether sound can help users to interpret uncertainty in spatial climate projections. An understanding of uncertainty is valuable for the interpretation of projection data (Brown and Bearman, 2012).
The open discussion session was led by David Stephenson. Discussions focused around the communication and handling of uncertainty, and how scientists can work more effectively with end-users of climate and weather information. Uncertainty in climate information often presents a barrier to adaptation and decision-making by the end-user, and there was much discussion around whether the scientific community needs to work more with the end-user to interpret uncertainty, or whether the uncertainties need to be reduced. It was suggested that short-range handling of uncertainty could be used to help people get a handle on long-range predictions where much larger uncertainties exist. There was also discussion around how to work with end-users while the scientific understanding and modelling systems are evolving, concern about using climate models beyond their current capability, and managing expectations. The importance of developing a two-way dialogue was discussed, particularly in terms of efficient communication often hindered by language barriers. Long-term partnerships with government and industry were suggested as a means of achieving this. It was also acknowledged that knowledge building, in terms of both the science and the end-user needs, was a very important component of building effective climate service partnerships.