In the first years of CLIMAS, we learned a lot from many stakeholders about their uses of and needs for hydroclimatic information and forecasts. We found that decision makers had many reasons for not using seasonal climate forecasts. Some of the reasons included:
The forecasts were for the wrong variables, were not issued near the time when they had to make decisions, or did not cover the specific region they were concerned with;
The forecasts were difficult to interpret correctly, appeared too complicated, or were too vague;
It was difficult to relate the forecasts to historic or recent conditions without a lot of extra effort;
The decision makers couldn’t match which decisions could benefit from the forecasts because no one knew how the forecasts had performed for the situations important to them;
The decision makers simply didn’t have the flexibility to take advantage of the forecasts, sometimes because of institutional limitations, and other times due to lack of resources or alternatives.
Some barriers to using forecasts may require many years to overcome (e.g., developing forecast models for new variables and changing institutional procedures and policies). We focused our research efforts on forecast assessment, to help decision makers better decide whether forecasts were appropriate for their specific applications. Forecast assessment included 1) research on forecast communication and interpretation, 2) relating forecasts to ancillary information (e.g., historical and recent observations), and 3) evaluating forecast performance using methods that reflect the many different ways that forecasts may convey information.