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Posted 24 October 2011


World Climate Research Programme Conference: Science Serves Society

The World Climate Research Programme’s Open Science Conference taking place this week aims to increase understanding of the naturally occurring variability and human influenced change in our climate system and its impact on our society and ecosystems.

More than 1 700 of the world’s leading scientists will consider the effects of rising global temperatures on polar regions, glaciers and ice caps, and the oceans. There will be a special focus on extreme events such as heatwaves, droughts and floods. Prospects for predicting the weather and climate months, seasons and even decades ahead, as well as the challenges facing surface and space based observation networks, are among the other topics. See WCRP press release.

“The traditional image of scientists secluded in an ivory tower is now wrong, clearly so for climate scientists,” World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Secretary-General Michel Jarraud told the opening session of the conference in Denver, the United States. He said that decision-making at all levels is increasingly dependent on the availability of supporting climate information, and that the current demand for such information, based on reliable observations and solid science, significantly exceeds the available supply.

Two overarching World Climate Research Programme (WCRP) objectives will be to determine the predictability of climate patterns and the influence of human activities on these patterns, he said. WMO is a co-sponsor of the World Climate Research Programme.

Mr Jarraud said that research is a critical component of the Global Framework for Climate Services (link to GFCS site) which was approved by the World Meteorological Congress in June and is now being developed in conjunction with UN and other stakeholders. The Framework will boost the availability, timeliness and relevance of climate information to all countries and all communities, especially the most vulnerable. “We therefore need to ensure a two-way communication and user feedback channel, a process in which WCRP should assume a leading role,” he said.

Priorities for Action

The Framework’s most immediate priority areas will be agriculture and food security; health; water resources management; and disaster risk reduction.

“There is now a clear perception that the future of our planet, and therefore that of humanity, will decisively depend on our ability to cope with climate variability and change. While we have achieved outstanding advances in the accuracy of weather predictions and warnings, we also need global, regional and national climate services in urgency,” said Mr Jarraud.

“We are confident that WCRP interdisciplinary research shall deliver increasingly useful predictions on the seasonal to decadal time scales, estimates of current and future sea-level rise, and estimates of climate extremes, to name just a few examples,” he said.

Concerning the use of weather and climate information by decision-makers, it is important to keep a global perspective while acting regionally and even locally. Climate anomalies tend to manifest themselves at regional scale, so supporting climate change adaptation and climate risk management will demand reliable high-resolution climate information products. It will be a priority for WCRP to convert its experience into useful regional climate predictions, according to Mr Jarraud.

The Open Science Conference brings together experts from across a large number of disciplines from physical sciences (atmospheric, oceanic, polar regions, ecosystems) as well as social and information sciences. It also aims to nurture the next generation of scientists, with workshops for early career professionals and students.

The outcomes of the conference will be published and benefit the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and other forthcoming assessments of freshwater resources, ecosystems, biodiversity and ozone.

Full statement



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