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Consensus-driven predictions and outlooks

Regional Climate Outlook Forums (RCOFs)

Creating a climate forecast is not an easy task, and not all countries have the technology or capacity to create the valuable climate predictions and outlooks. For this reason, among others, in the late 1990’s the WMO, National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs), regional institutions, and other international organizations initiated an innovative process known as the Regional Climate Outlook Forum (RCOF).

Global regions of the RCOFs

Global regions of the RCOFs

The forums bring together the experts from regions which are climatologically similar and provide consensus-based climate predictions and information. The information is usually based on the season which has the highest socio-economic significance. This information has been applied to reducing climate-related risks and supporting sustainable development. Such forums now exist in many regions across the world indicated in the map to the right.

Concept

These forums bring together national, regional and international climate experts, on an operational basis, to produce regional climate outlooks based on input from NMHSs, regional institutions, Regional Climate Centres (RCCs) and global producers of climate predictions. By bringing together countries with common climatological characteristics, the forums ensure consistency in the access to, and interpretation of, climate information. Through interaction with sectoral users, extension agencies and policy makers, RCOFs assess the likely implications of the outlooks on the most pertinent socio-economic sectors in the given region and explore ways these outlooks could be used.

The core concept of all the RCOFs remains the same: delivering consensus-based user-relevant climate outlook products in real time through regional cooperation and partnership. However, since national and regional capacities are varied and, in some cases, are inadequate to face the task individually, the implementation mechanisms of the RCOFs in different regions have been tailored to meet the local conditions. For example, the RCOF process, pioneered in Africa, typically includes the following components:

  1. Meetings - of the regional and international climate experts to develop a consensus for the regional climate outlook, typically in a probabilistic form
  2. The Forum proper - that involves both climate scientists and representatives from the user sectors, for identification of impacts and implications, and the formulation of response strategies
  3. A training workshop on seasonal climate prediction to strengthen the capacity of the national and regional climate scientists
  4. Special outreach sessions involving media experts, to develop effective communications strategies

RCOFs also review impediments to the use of climate information, experiences and successful lessons regarding applications of the past RCOF products, and enhance sector-specific applications. These RCOFs then lead to national forums to develop detailed national-scale climate outlooks and risk information including warnings for communication to decision-makers and the public.

RCOFs have facilitated regional cooperation and networking, and have effectively demonstrated the immense mutual benefits of sharing climate information and experience. Close interaction between the providers and users of climate information and predictions has enhanced feedback from the users to climate scientists, and has catalysed the development of many user-specific products.

RCOF Users

In many regions, the users benefiting from the RCOFs are true stakeholders, contributing to the organization and growth of the sessions, thus ensuring their sustainability and applicability to meeting user needs. Typically, RCOFs attract the participation of practitioners and decision-makers from sectors including:

  • Agriculture and food security
  • Water resources
  • Energy production and distribution
  • Public health
  • Disaster risk reduction and response
  • Outreach and communication

Other sectors such as tourism, transportation, urban planning, etc. are increasingly involved.

Based on the needs of specific sectors, specialized, sector-oriented outlook forums, such as the Malaria Outlook Forums (MALOFs) are being held in conjunction with RCOFs in Africa.

RCOFs are in operation in many parts of the world, mainly serving developing countries. These are:

GHACOF: Greater Horn of Africa COF  

ROCF products

ROCF products
The RCOFs regularly provide real-time regional climate outlook products.

SARCOF: Southern Africa COF  
PRESAO: Prévision Saisonnière en Afrique de l’Ouest  
PRESAC: Prévision Saisonnière en Afrique Centrale  
FOCRAII: Forum on Regional Climate Monitoring, Assessment and Prediction for Regional Association II (Asia)  
SSACOF: Southeast of South America COF  
WCSACOF: Western Coast of South America COF  
CCOF: Caribbean COF  
FCCA: Foro Regional del Clima de América Central  
PICOF: Pacific Islands COF  
SEECOF: SouthEastern Europe COF  

Regional Climate Change and RCOFs

RCOFs were originally conceived to focus on seasonal prediction, and have significantly contributed to adaptation to climate variability. The concept has the potential to be extended to develop our capacity to adapt to climate change. RCOFs can be effectively expanded to cater to the needs of developing and disseminating regional climate change information products. This concept is already being tested by some RCOFs (e.g. GHACOF).

Regional assessments of observed and projected climate change, including the development of downscaled climate change scenario products for impact assessments, can be included in the product portfolio of RCOFs. This potential has already been recognized by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Subsidiary Body on Science and Technology Advice (SBSTA), and constitutes a key element of WMO’s contribution to the Nairobi Work Programme on impacts, vulnerability and adaptation to climate change.

[Further information] on the concept of the RCOFs and their history can be found in the WMO’s World Climate Applications and Services Programme (WCASP).

[More in depth information] Products produced by The Regional Climate Outlook Forums can be found on the RCOFs website.

[More in depth information] about the Malaria Outlook Forums can be found in the WMO article: Climate Services crucial for early warning of malaria epidemics.

[Technical information] An international expert review  of the role and services and future of  RCOFs  was held in  2008. The outcome of this review can be found here.

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