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for those regions where the physical links are strongest may
provide the highest scientific payoff, but it may not provide the
most significant economic or humanitarian payoffs. Such
considerations may imply that there is much to be gained by
shifting some predictive effort from regions such as Latin America
and Southern Africa that are highly sensitive to the El
Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phenomenon to regions such
as Europe and West Africa, where outcomes may be highly sensitive
to Atlantic climate variability or to monsoon predictions for Asia,
even though predictive skill is currently very limited.
Improvements in the skill of forecasts, combined with the
expectation that the new knowledge will not be used with perfect
efficiency, means that it may be possible to deliver forecast
information in ways that lead human groups to cope more effectively
with seasonal-to-interannual climatic variability, reduce
sensitivity to the downside of climatic variation, and take better
advantage of climatic opportunities.
Therein lies the crux of our concerns here. The eventual value
of improved forecasting skill will depend on how people and
organizations deal with the new kind of information. Are they
likely to pay attention to it? Will they understand what the
climate models mean for them? Will they trust the messengers? How
will mass media organizations and other messengers transmit
forecast information, and how will their messages be interpreted?
Are recipients likely to systematically misinterpret the
information given to make it conform to their preexisting ideas?
How will they respond to the false alarms and false reassurances
that any imperfect forecasting system sometimes produces and to the
inevitable simplifications offered by mass media and other
messengers? And what can be done to transform potentially useful
forecasts into information that is actually used to benefit
Structure Of This Book
This book examines the state of knowledge and the needs for
further knowledge relevant to understanding the effects of
seasonal-to-interannual climate forecasts and making them more
useful. Chapter 2 examines the current state of scientific
capability to make skillful climate forecasts on a
seasonal-to-interannual time scale and begins to address the
question of what it would take to make such forecasts more useful.
The information on climate forecasting is meant primarily as
background for those outside the forecasting community; the section
on usable knowledge is addressed both to forecasters and other
readers. Chapter 3 considers what is known about the strategies
people and societies have developed to cope with two qualities of
their environments: that climate is variable, and that (until
recently) climate variations have been essentially