Message from ESIG Director Robert Harriss

Robert Harriss and SportFY 2000 was a year of remarkable accomplishments in ESIG. A major study of El Niño impacts in 16 countries in four regions produced an interim report that has attracted the attention and interest of the leadership of the United Nations. The study employed the innovative "forecasting by analogy" approach. The remarkable complexity of factors that influence the societal utility of current El Niño forecasts is clearly documented for the first time. This study provides important feedback to national governments, international organizations, and to experimental forecasting researchers. Reducing impacts of El Niño will be most effective when a systems approach is taken to understanding the interface between what can be forecast and what forecast information can be useable in a specific societal context. The process of building resilience to environmental and societal impacts of El Niño in the 16 countries studied will require customized forecast information that meets the needs of a wide range of stakeholders.

ESIG researchers were major contributors to both the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the U.S. National Assessment of Climate Variability and Change. Leadership efforts in IPCC Working Groups I and II by ESIG scientists have contributed to a comprehensive synthesis of understanding in areas of climate scenario development, uncertainties in applying climate model information to environmental and societal impact analysis, and impacts of climate variability and change on North America. Contributions to the U. S. National Assessment Program (USNAP) ranged from fundamental methodological contributions to participation in regional impact assessments. These contributions to the IPCC and USNAP were in addition to, and made possible by, continuing fundamental research in ESIG on links between climate variability, natural and managed ecosystem interactions with the climate system, and resource management strategies. Current research projects focus on the influence of climate on agricultural systems, fisheries, and water resources.

The ESIG contributions to understanding the use of weather and climate information for decision-making were also marked by several uniquely interdisciplinary activities that resulted in major book and workshop publications. The complexity of making and using scientific predictions is discussed in detail in a recently published book titled "Prediction: Science, Decision Making, and The Future of Nature". This book brings together a wide range of perspectives from both the natural and social sciences on both successes and failures of prediction methods and results in meeting societal needs. A workshop on "Extreme Events: Developing an Agenda for the 21st Century" added further insights into how both scholars and practitioners assess research priorities at the interface of prediction science, risk communication and management, and decision making. The book and workshop mark the beginning phase of what is expected to be a long-term interdisciplinary research program concerned with improving the use and value of geoscience prediction and forecast information for decision-making.

ESIG research on fundamental methods and tools for assessing weather and climate interactions with both managed and natural systems is crucial to improving scientific frameworks for future international and national assessments. ESIG projects focus on statistical methods (e.g., extreme value theory, statistical downscaling, and forecast value use), integration of climate models with agricultural crop models, biogeochemical modeling of agroecosystem response to weather and climate variability, and integrated analysis of geophysical, economic, and policy aspects of extreme weather events.

The education and outreach activities of ESIG reach a wide audience of scholars, students, media, and the interested public. ESIG's primary focus is on Internet-based communications through electronic newsletters and posting of research results. The Network Newsletter and WeatherZine were joined by the ENSO Signal in FY 2000. Additional ESIG Internet resources include the Weather and Climate Forecast Use and Value Bibliography and a new email list-serve and education resource guide on weather policy. ESIG also continues to serve thousands of scientists and policymakers in developing countries with paper copies of the Network Newsletter.

The ESIG program balance is approximately 40% fundamental research that relates directly to NSF merit criteria calling for intellectual excellence, 30% education and outreach, and 30% that has a strong component relating to NSF merit criteria addressing near-term societal issues and applications. We anticipate continuing to aim for a balanced program that places approximately equal emphasis on fundamental research, societal use of scientific information, and education. ESIG is now discussing prospects for a significant increase in both research activity and staff size.

ESIG is a leader in moving forward on enhancing diversity in the NCAR workforce. ESIG staff has held leadership roles in the NCAR dialogue on issues of diversity in the workforce, mentoring of early career scientists, and creating a productive and nurturing environment for female members of the staff. It is our intention to excel in all of these areas as part of our personnel procedures, recruiting efforts, and learning how to work more effectively together.

– Robert Harriss

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