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Improving seasonal-to-decadal (s2d) climate information

The EU-funded SPECS project is working to deliver a new generation of European climate forecast systems with a focus on seasonal-to-decadal data.

We’ve all become accustomed to watching weather forecasts on the nightly news. And we’re also now quite familiar with long-term climate change projections. However less attention is given to climate information covering the medium term – future periods ranging from several months to several years ahead. This knowledge gap is problematic because this type of data – known as seasonal-to-decadal (s2d) climate information – is necessary to support economic, industrial and political planning. There are many challenges regarding s2d predictions. They have limited forecast quality, especially over Europe where there is a real need for operational regionalisation and sophisticated calibration of climate prediction. Also, there is a distinct lack of focus on s2d time scale in many research projects and incipient climate services. Public, political and scientific concerns over the effects of long-term climate change have meant that this is the primary focus for many research projects. That’s why the EU-funded SPECS (Seasonal-to-decadal climate Prediction for the improvement of European Climate Services) project is focusing on s2d data. Launched in 2012 and running until 2017, SPECS is undertaking research and dissemination activities to deliver a new generation of European climate forecast systems that make use of the latest scientific progress in climate modelling and operational forecasting. These systems will have improved forecast quality and efficient regionalisation tools to produce reliable, local climate information over land at s2d time scales. They will also provide an enhanced communication protocol and services for a wide range of public and private stakeholders. Now two years into the project, the SPECS team is exploring scientific questions covering specific knowledge gaps, with a particular focus on the low climate skills in the European region. They are testing radical changes to forecast systems in terms of variable radiative forcing and an increase in spatial resolution in global forecast systems. The team is working to develop improved systems based on existing state-of-the-art climate prediction models, data assimilation systems, objective combination and downscaling methods. Coordinated by the Catalonian Institute for Climate Science (IC3) in Spain, SPECS is also integrating multidimensional observational data sets of the coupled atmosphere-ocean-cryosphere-land surface system into the production of climate information, both for the preparation of better initial conditions and for the post-processing of the predictions. The SPECS project team insists that they bring something distinctly different to other projects in this area: ‘The main philosophy of SPECS is unique in that it addresses its objectives by integrating and testing the consolidated knowledge on climate modelling and impact assessment generated by other EU-funded projects and operational activities to optimise the project outcome and achieve a maximum impact.’ One specific project that SPECS is currently involved in is supporting the UK’s Met Office in multi-model decadal forecast exchange. This allows many institutions around the world to informally exchange information as they try to develop decadal prediction capability. The different predictions from each institute, covering surface air temperature, sea-level pressure and precipitation, are gathered together on the UK Met Office website, and more diagnostics, including ocean variables are planned for the future. For more information, please visit: