Between November 2017 and April 2018, we conducted 28 expert interviews with climate scientists from China and the UK. Eighteen had expertise in seasonal precipitation forecasting for China (China = 13, UK = 5). Ten (all Chinese scientists) had expertise in multidecadal temperature and precipitation projections relevant to China. As Part 1 of the interviews required a constrained geographic focus, we concentrated on regions where other CSSP China projects were focusing on climate services for seasonal precipitation forecasting (Middle Yangtze) and climate adaptation (Lower Yangtze) (Bett et al., 2017; Golding et al., 2017a, b; Sun et al., 2019).
Experts were identified through the CSSP China programme and a review of the literature. Participants were approached through the UK Met Office, China Meteorological Administration (CMA), Institute of Atmospheric Physics (IAP), the 2018 Forum on Regional Climate Monitoring, and the Forum on Regional Climate Monitoring, Assessment, and Prediction for Asia (FOCRAII). Interviews comprised two stages, and were conducted in English or Mandarin. Part 1 elicited expert judgments about the importance of different sources of predictability and uncertainty in seasonal forecasts or multidecadal projections. Part 2 focused on experts’ perceptions of users’ needs for receiving information about uncertainty including: what they believed that users needed to know about uncertainty, their experience of providing this information, and any challenges that they had encountered or anticipated with respect to communicating uncertainty.
In this paper, we focus on responses to Part 2, with in-depth analyses of Part 1 reported in Grainger et al. (2018, personal communication).
Between March 2018 and July 2018, we interviewed 18 current and potential users of climate information. Participants were initially recruited through contacts in CMA and other CSSP China projects, and asked to recommend other potential contacts who may be willing to take part. As two other projects within the CSSP China program were conducting interviews with some of the same target participants, a joint interview protocol combining questions from each of the projects was developed to limit the risk of stakeholder fatigue (Verdon-Kidd et al., 2012). Participant characteristics are summarized in Table 1, in which 5 of the 18 participants were identified as decision makers, while 11 had intermediary roles as either in-house meteorologists (n = 3) or researchers/analysts (n = 8) who provide information to advise decision makers. The remaining two were academic researchers. Six participants currently received seasonal climate forecasts, while two received multidecadal projections. The remainder (n = 10) did not currently receive climate information, but were interested in doing so (seasonal = 5, multidecadal = 2, general = 4). All organizations operated at either a city, province, or river basin level.
Sector Role Status 1 Energy/Water Intermediary Current user: seasonal 2 Energy/Water Intermediary Current user: seasonal 3 Urban Intermediary Potential user 4 Urban Intermediary Potential user 5 Urban Intermediary Potential user 6 Water/Urban Intermediary Potential user 7 Energy/Urban Decision maker Potential user 8 Urban Intermediary Current user: seasonal 9 Commercial Decision maker Potential user 10 Energy/Urban Decision maker Potential user 11 Urban Intermediary Potential user 12 Water/Urban Intermediary Potential user 13 Energy Decision maker Current user: seasonal 14 Water Intermediary Current user: seasonal 15 Water Decision maker Current user: seasonal 16 Commercial Intermediary Potential user 17 Academia Researcher Current user: multidecadal 18 Academia Researcher Current user: multidecadal
Table 1. Characteristics of the participants in interviews with current and potential users of climate information
Interviews were conducted in Mandarin or English. Participants were first asked about their organization’s approach to uncertainty. This was followed by questions about information about uncertainty in climate products currently received (current users only), preferences for receiving information about uncertainty in climate products, and any challenges in using or interpreting this information. Those interested in seasonal forecasts were asked to provide feedback on the format and layout of a Chinese translation of a seasonal forecast produced by the Met Office for the Three Gorges Dam (Bett et al., 2017).
Thematic analysis, a procedure for identifying and coding key themes in qualitative data (Guest et al., 2011), was used to analyze the interviews. We applied a mixture of deductive coding, where we examined whether themes suggested by prior research were present in the interviews (i.e., preference for deterministic inform-ation), and inductive coding, where themes emerge from interviews.
This work was undertaken to examine the current provision of information about uncertainty in climate forecasts and projections for China, assess users’ preferences and experts’ perceptions of user needs, and explore the challenges associated with communicating uncertainty. Key recommendations are summarized in Table 2.
Recommendation Timescale Where the underlying science permits, work to provide seasonal forecasts that are based on user-relevant thresholds Seasonal forecasts Explain conditionality (i.e., why forecasts may perform better in some years than others) Seasonal forecasts Provide an indication of forecasters’ confidence in the forecast quality Seasonal forecasts When the skill of forecast models is low, provide forecasts based on climatology, explaining to users that in some years historical data provide the best guide to seasonal conditions Seasonal forecasts Ensure that the most important decision-relevant information is placed in the part of the document most likely to be noticed first (i.e., the summary box on seasonal briefings) Seasonal forecasts Where historical observations alone are used for long-term planning decisions, explore the potential added value that climate projections could provide by bringing together providers, decision makers, and intermediaries Multidecadal projections Identify who within the user organization will receive and use climate products (i.e., decision makers, intermediaries, and both) General Identify the type of choices that climate products will be expected to inform, even if they will not be directly consulted by decision makers General As there are not always direct Chinese translations for English words describing different aspects of uncertainty (i.e., probability, reliability, accuracy, and skill), identify terminology that can be effectively used to refer to these in cross-cultural collaborations General
Table 2. Summary of recommendations
At seasonal timescales, we find that current provision is mainly deterministic. However, while experts perceive a preference for deterministic information among users, this is not universally the case, with experienced users wishing to receive probabilistic forecasts. Nonetheless, when it comes to forecasts presented as the likelihood of above/below average, only high probabilities (> 60%–80%) are perceived as useful, with probabilities around 50% perceived as not conveying useful information. As anomaly-based forecasts for above/below average conditions can be challenging to integrate into decision making processes, we recommend that developers of seaso-nal climate services for China explore the feasibility of providing probabilistic forecasts based on user-defined thresholds. Our exploration of preferences for receiving information about uncertainty did not identify a “most preferred” format. However, it did highlight the importance of having “summary boxes” that contain all decision critical information. While detailed technical information may be of limited interest, many users did welcome to have some explanation and justification for the forecast. Indeed, as forecast performance depends on sources of predictability, we suggest that short statements regarding forecast quality be provided. For instance, when model skill is low, providing forecasts based on historical averages (climatology) and explaining that this represents the best available science, may offer a credible way to address the conditional nature of forecast quality. At multidecadal timescales, limited user engagement made it impossible to provide evidence-based recommendations for communication. However, our findings suggest that the development of climate services at multidecadal timescales will require exploration of the added value that projections may provide for long-term planning.
Acknowledgments. We thank the CSSP China Work Package 5 leaders Drs. Chris Hewitt, Nicola Golding, Tyrone Dunbar, and Peiqun Zhang, for their input, feedback, and support in this work; as well as all of those who facilitated this research in China, including Prof. Liangmin Du, Drs. Min Lin, Qingchen Chao, Ying Sun, and Mr. Yuan Sun. We thank all of our participants in China and the UK for contributing their time and insights.
|1||Energy/Water||Intermediary||Current user: seasonal|
|2||Energy/Water||Intermediary||Current user: seasonal|
|7||Energy/Urban||Decision maker||Potential user|
|8||Urban||Intermediary||Current user: seasonal|
|9||Commercial||Decision maker||Potential user|
|10||Energy/Urban||Decision maker||Potential user|
|13||Energy||Decision maker||Current user: seasonal|
|14||Water||Intermediary||Current user: seasonal|
|15||Water||Decision maker||Current user: seasonal|
|17||Academia||Researcher||Current user: multidecadal|
|18||Academia||Researcher||Current user: multidecadal|