Demand for climate information beyond the seasonal-to-interannual timescale has been increasing, in particular information regarding the next 10-30 years. Certain decisions, such as planning decisions for transportation, infrastructure projects, or water reservoir design, require information on both the mean climate and the likely characteristics of its variability over the next several decades.
Research on understanding and predicting climate on longer time scales constitutes one of the most challenging frontiers in climate science today. It bridges the gap between natural variability on decadal-to-multidecadal timescales and anthropogenically induced trends in the climate. Interest is growing in the academic community to describe and explain the mechanisms of decadal variability. Similarly, interest is growing in the modeling and prediction communities to predict decadal variations of both natural and man-made origin. The necessary elements to produce dynamical predictions of decadal variability, such as earth-system models and realtime observations of the global oceans, now exist; however, it will take some time before those can be properly used for prediction.
On the other hand, it may be possible to take advantage of the existing observational record and of the substantial database of IPCC-class model simulations and projections and test the feasibility of providing information regarding near-term climate change and associated variability.
Prediction research efforts towards understanding and predicting near-term climate change are relatively new at IRI. Some projects targeting this area include:
- Documenting the spatial and temporal characteristics of terrestrial surface climate over the instrumental record.
- Techniques for probabilistic multi-model climate change outlooks.
- Development of hybrid prediction methodology aimed at near-term climate change.