Climate information for regions is the primary issue and need for climate services. In this context, it is important to note the difference between 'data' and 'information' in terms of climate information for regions; information is not data, but is an understanding that builds messages of relevance to the concerned users that are backed by clear and robust physical scientific analyses. There are substantial gaps in climate data that constrains the ability to produce the climate information needed, particularly in some regions.
Scientific challenges in the regional context are hard to define, and vary with the breadth of requirements, difference in the level of scientific development and needs of applications. Instead, the concept below provides an explanation of WCRP’s scope and respective roles in the climate science for regions. A 'region' in this context is not necessarily defined as a specific geographic area, but as an area covering respective scientific and socio-ecological interests. There are also substantial and necessary overlaps of scientific activities among the three categories.
Click on the circles below to go to the relevant leg:
The first category ('Leg 1') comprises the fundamental science that aims to understand mechanisms of climate and causes of its variability/change, and to produce projections. In other words, it is systematic study directed toward greater knowledge or understanding of the fundamental aspects of phenomena and/or observations that may be applied to a range of processes through further development. An example is continuous measurement, simulation and projection of the climate system in order to understand the global circulation and convection at various scales to address questions on precipitation extremes (drought, heavy rainfall, etc.).
A large part of past achievements and current activities of this category have been led by climate scientists under the WCRP umbrella. The WCRP-wide efforts for climate science in regions, especially relating to this category, have been and should be conducted programme-wide, including within all the WCRP Core Projects and Grand Challenges: see WCRP regional activities.
WCRP continues to offer strong leadership in this category, and to promote a mechanism to coordinate activities with common purposes/challenges in regions, primarily within various WCRP projects and groups. Activities of this nature are often inseparable from those of 'Leg 2'; WCRP simultaneously seeks coordination of Legs 1 with 2. For example, the CORDEX Flagship Pilot Studies provides a common framework for looking into scientific questions for not only topic-focused but also region-focused questions.
The second category ('Leg 2') comprises research to gain the integrated knowledge or understanding necessary to inform actions to meet a recognized requirement (e.g. analysis on the causes of drought, studies to improve predictability of droughts and heavy rainfall in a specific region). Climate research activities in this category are largely inspired by the needs of stakeholders, and require processes to identify, develop and document both the relevant and applicable scientific tools and needs in respective application areas, often engaging experts from different sectors. The outcome of such activities is knowledge (but not actual service products) relevant to the identified socio-ecological challenges, often with strong regional context, and needs to be informed by high level stakeholders.
This is an emerging and maturing field of science, which WCRP climate scientists are actively engaged in (Brasseur and Gallardo, 2016). Most of WCRP’s Grand Challenges coordinate collective efforts to advance scientific understanding toward the questions of Leg 2. In view of promoting and providing advice for the appropriate use of climate knowledge/information for respective requirements, WCRP should forge excellence of climate science, founded on its strength and leadership in the climate system knowledge development that is described in Leg 1.
An ambiguous boundary and large overlap exist not only between Legs 1 and 2, but also between Legs 2 and 3. Leg 2 promotes the design and implementation of scientific activities, taking into account and engaging with consolidated and analytical knowledge of the socio-ecological requirements, while Leg 3 focuses on outreach to interact with users for understanding and application of climate knowledge.
WCRP progressively builds a leading role in leveraging and actively promoting Leg 2 research internationally, and joins efforts with those entities coordinating initiatives from the other end of the knowledge chain to provide scientific guidance. The WCRP Working Group on Regional Climate (WGRC) developed a concept of Frontiers of Climate Information (FOCI) offering a framework for research activities addressing this aspect.
Social and economic sciences, humanities and the arts, stakeholder dialogue, interactions with end-users and service provision are not within the WCRP mission. However, they provide a basis and a context for the update of user interest and the need for climate information. Consequently WCRP research on 'Information for regions' needs to be aware of/informed about specific user interests and needs.
Leg 3 comprises all efforts to identify user requirements and needs that may guide research directions, and to determine the implication and relevance of climate knowledge derived from Legs 1 and 2 to applications/services. It naturally leads to systematic trans-disciplinary engagement and to strong communication needs. It also requires the coordinated efforts of WCRP to improve communication and outreach, particularly to support delivery of the Programme’s key message and to improve visibility.
Leg 3 also brings WCRP beyond research activities to engage with primary users of climate information including climate services, and is largely regionally-oriented. It also presents opportunities for WCRP to gain and enhance visibility, and to promote partners’ awareness of WCRP’s climate science.
WCRP in general does not own or lead Leg 3 activities or dialogue/fora, but seeks opportunities for partnership and/or synergetic participation. WCRP’s efforts in this category focus on fostering close partnerships with 'boundary organizations' and clearly identify sustained channels of dialogue, through which regional requirements and translation of WCRP science would be communicated in an efficient manner. The definition of climate services/applications varies depending on the perspectives of use/users, however, under the present global circumstances, these boundary organizations may include the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC); the Global Framework for Climate Services (GFCS) (particularly its Climate Services and Information Systems pillar); Future Earth; global and regional climate service partnerships; the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) as the representatives of meteorological services; WMO’s Regional Climate Centers and Regional Outlook fora; research coordinating entities for vulnerability, Impacts and Adaptation communities, and other examples.