Preparing for the Future: Climate Products and Models for India

Scientists have wholeheartedly accepted the existence of an increasing trend in the frequency and intensity of various extreme climate events, many of which are attributed to climate change. This trend is based on evidence from the recent past and is predicted to extend into the future.

Because of its diverse socioeconomic and climatic profile, the rapidly developing Indian subcontinent is highly vulnerable to these extreme climate events. Reducing uncertainty when predicting such extreme climate events has taken on growing importance.

Earlier this year, researchers from India and Norway gathered for a project kickoff workshop to discuss the variability and predictability aspects of extremes. Participants assessed research gaps in the current predictability of extremes over India to target and develop some possible approaches for better forecasting.

They also discussed potential ways to transition these research products into direct use by stakeholders, including decision-makers and policy makers, officers from climate-sensitive ministries, and the general public. The workshop was part of the PREPARE Indo-Norwegian project, which aims to develop a forecasting model on multiple timescales for extreme events in India and to deliver customized climate products to Indian stakeholders to help them prepare under the narrative of growing extreme climate events.

A Need for Customized Products

Given the urgent need for customized climate service products to serve sensitive sectors like Indian water and agriculture, the workshop discussions centered on developing an India-specific, multi temporal forecasting system for various extreme climate indices. This system would help tailor climate services for stakeholders' and users' needs, develop future climate products specific for engineering purposes (water management and strategies and planning for building crucial infrastructure and residences, among many other applications), and develop a high-resolution data atlas for policy makers and decision-makers on future hydro extremes over the Indian domain.

A daylong scientific session on intraseasonal and decadal predictability of climate focused on Asian monsoons. Workshop participants agreed that a new approach, introduced at this session, could be very useful in developing India's multitemporal forecasting model. This approach uses maximum covariance analysis (MCA) and could be used to forecast precipitation events 30 days before they happen since the approach assumed that the events within a given season are strongly related to extremes of precipitation. One presentation at the workshop focused on a successful pilot experiment for India that used MCA.

Workshop participants took a day-trip to Oslo to attend a talk about how to move away from a carbon-based economy. During this day-trip, attendees met with senior officials from embassies including Brazil, India, Russia, and the Netherlands and officers and researchers from the hydropower, risk assessment, and research and development sectors. These officials took an immediate interest in the outcomes of the workshop, especially the parts that dealt with designing a forecasting model and customized climate products from the project.

The workshop ended with a plan and agenda for the first fully residential Climate Research School on Extremes, which was held 18–22 September 2017.

The lessons learned from the workshop generated a 3-year plan of action for the deliverables under the PREPARE project. The data products that will be created under this project will be presented in an easy-to-use atlas for India, containing high-resolution images and synthesis research outputs in the form of spatial plots and infographics. The stakeholders see the workshop and project outputs as important contributions toward appropriate policy formulation to prepare for future climate extremes.

This workshop was funded by the Royal Norwegian Embassy in India under Phase 2 of the Norwegian Framework Agreement with The Energy and Resources Institute and the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.