Climate information, outlooks, and understanding–where does the IRI stand?

Barnston, Anthony G.; Tippett, Michael K.

The International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI) began providing user-oriented climate information, including outlooks, in the late 1990s. Its climate products are intended to meet the needs of decision makers in various sectors of society such as agriculture, water management, health, disaster management, energy, education and others. They try to link the current state of the science in climate diagnostics and prediction to the dynamically evolving practical needs of users worldwide. Because most users are not climate scientists, the manner in which the information is provided is of paramount importance in order for it to be understandable and actionable. Non-technical
language that preserves essential content is required, as well as graphics that are intuitive and largely self-explanatory. The climate information products themselves must be in demand by users, rather than ones that the producers believe would be best. These requirements are consistent with IRI’s mission of improving human welfare, particularly in developing countries where decision makers may not initially know what climate information they need, and how best to use it. This lack of initial understanding requires back-and-forth communication between the producers and users to initiate and sustain uptake and beneficial use of the information. Backed by its climate prediction research, the IRI’s
climate information products span time-scales of days to decades. Experience on the statistics of daily weather behavior within seasons has been gleaned, as has the benefits of statistical and dynamical spatial downscaling of predictions. By providing views in a progressive sequence of temporal scales, IRI’s products help demonstrate that preparation for
interannual climate variability may be the best preparation for decadal variability and trends related to climate change.


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