Communicating uncertainty in seasonal and interannual climate forecasts in Europe (2015)

Andrea L. Taylor, Suraje Dessai, Wändi Bruine de Bruin Communicating uncertainty in seasonal and interannual climate forecasts in Europe. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. A 2015 373 20140454; DOI: 10.1098/rsta.2014.0454


Across Europe, organizations in different sectors are sensitive to climate variability and change, at a range of temporal scales from the seasonal to the interannual to the multi-decadal. Climate forecast providers face the challenge of communicating the uncertainty inherent in these forecasts to these decision-makers in a way that is transparent, understandable and does not lead to a false sense of certainty. This article reports the findings of a user-needs survey, conducted with 50 representatives of organizations in Europe from a variety of sectors (e.g. water management, forestry, energy, tourism, health) interested in seasonal and interannual climate forecasts. We find that while many participating organizations perform their own ‘in house’ risk analysis most require some form of processing and interpretation by forecast providers. However, we also find that while users tend to perceive seasonal and interannual forecasts to be useful, they often find them difficult to understand, highlighting the need for communication formats suitable for both expert and non-expert users. In addition, our results show that people tend to prefer familiar formats for receiving information about uncertainty. The implications of these findings for both the providers and users of climate information are discussed.

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