ESRL Integrating Research and Technology Themes

The Weather-Climate Connection

  1. Goal and Scope
  2. Weather conditions over the United States are strongly affected by climate variations occurring in the tropical oceans and atmosphere and the polar vortex, changes in surface characteristics (for example, in sea surface temperatures, soil moisture, and snow cover), and storm track shifts associated with planetary-scale circulation changes. Improving understanding and capabilities to predict the mutual connections of weather and climate phenomena, and translating this knowledge into improved operational forecast products, is the fundamental goal of this integrating theme. This goal is central to NOAA's mission. Improvements in forecasts on weekly to monthly time ranges are especially needed where decisions require a week or more to implement: when harvesting crops, draining large reservoirs in anticipation of floods, producing power, and transporting goods. Other decision-makers that would benefit include coastal zone managers, air quality managers, the insurance industry, business planning, power distribution and agriculture.

    This scope of this integrating theme includes:

    • Observations, analysis and modeling of the connections between tropical and related shifts in the mid-latitude jet stream and changes in the frequency and path of tropical and extratropical cyclones,
    • Developing regional testbeds to analyze in detail the response of the water cycle to these changes, particularly in topographically complex regions such as mountains and coasts.
    • Evaluating the influence of regional characteristics (i.e. topography, vegetation, soil texture, and soil moisture) on the land-atmospheric interaction in seasonal/interannual regional climate.
    • Observing and understanding the effects of polar climate change and variability on mid- and high-latitude weather.
    • Developing and testing novel prediction approaches, including applications of ensemble forecasts and "reforecast" methods, to increase forecast skill and identify the strengths and limitations of present generation weather and climate models.

  3. Rationale and Payoffs
    • This is an emerging topic with a substantial track record from its modest startup funding, including ensemble reforecasting and "atmospheric rivers" investigations within ESRL's Physical Sciences Division.
    • This topic addresses a major gap in NOAA's products and services that is identified in the NOAA Strategic Plan under both Climate and Weather and Water goals as well as in the proposed 20-Year Research Vision for NOAA.
    • This topic serves to integrate weather and climate dynamics, diagnostic and prediction research efforts to enable the development of better NOAA products and services on the less than one-week to seasonal forecast time scales.
    • This topic will focus effort on linking global scale climate processes to regional responses in a more quantitative and verifiable fashion, e.g., through the implementation of Weather-Climate testbeds.
  4. Major Collaborators and Their Research Foci
    1. Earth System Research Laboratory
      • Physical Sciences Division: Climate diagnostics, prediction and predictability research, physical process studies related to meridional moisture transports and regional impacts of climate variability
      • Global Systems Division: Development of global to local modeling systems for weather-climate diagnostics.
      • Global Monitoring Division: Expertise in surface radiation monitoring.
      • Chemical Sciences Division: Collaboration on coupling of air quality and climate variability.
    2. Other NOAA
      • Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Lab: Global models.
      • Climate and Global Change program: CLIVAR and GEWEX programs and related experiments, e.g., North American Monsoon Experiment (NAME).
      • Climate Prediction Center: Evaluation of new forecast methods in operations.
      • Environmental Modeling Center: Climate Testbed for evaluation and intercomparison of model and forecast techniques.
      • NCDC: Long-term climate data.
      • NGDC: Satellite data (NPOESS, VIIRS) environmental data records on precipitation, soil moisture, vegetation conditions, snowpack, and reservoir levels.
      • NOS and NMFS: Information linking runoff and impacts on estuaries and coastal areas.
    3. Others
      • CIRES: Theme contributions in Regional Processes, Climate System Variability, and Advanced Observing and Modeling Systems.
      • NASA Goddard Laboratory for Atmospheres: Subseasonal climate variability.
  5. Contributions to NOAA Goals
  6. NOAA Service requirements (PM): improve skill of "1 to 30 day" U.S. forecasts; clarify the nature and potential impacts of future climate changes, especially as related to extreme events. Fills a "time scale gap" between short-term weather forecasts and seasonal-to-interannual climate forecasts. Links closely with activities at GFDL and NCDC.
  7. Major Information Products, Customers, and Linkages
  8. Improved NOAA capabilities to:

    1. forecast high-impact weather and short-term climate variations on weekly
    2. to seasonal time scales,
    3. to localize the predicted areas of impacts, and
    4. to understand better the underlying physical processes that govern
    5. weather and climate variations in topographically complex regions, such as in coastal and intermountain regions of the western U.S.

    This integrating theme supports the NWS strategic goal to implement a seamless suite of weather and climate products, contributes to the improvement of the important new operational activity of "U.S. Threats Assessment", as well the national priority of Natural Disaster Reduction. NOAA's external constituents have also indicated that establishing the link between weather and climate variations is a top priority for their purposes, and is critical for increasing the value and applicability of NOAA's climate forecasts for end users.