1.4 Future directions

CDC will continue its role as a focused center of expertise within NOAA for developing and applying diagnostic analyses to address fundamental climate problems. This work will increasingly involve intercomparisons of observational and climate model data, an activity central to improving climate models.

Continuing key research areas

Vigorous CDC research will continue in specific areas where CDC has special expertise and provides major contributions to NOAA's mission. Such areas include:

  • Diagnostic and modeling studies to improve understanding and predictions of intraseasonal variability.
  • Studies to advance fundamental scientific understanding of El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and, more generally, the roles of ocean-atmosphere interactions in both the tropics and extratropics in interannual to multi-decadal climate variability.
  • Model-based research to assess and improve climate models used in analyses, short-term climate predictions and climate change projections, with particular emphasis on NCEP operational prediction models and GFDL climate models. Increasingly, advances in this area require expertise in understanding and diagnosing fundamental physical processes, such as convection, cloud-radiation interactions, and land surface-atmosphere interactions, and the use of ensemble methods for analyses and predictions.
  • Development of stochastic approaches for climate modeling, parameterization, and prediction.

Emerging research thrusts

Emerging areas of new research are strongly motivated by a few overarching questions that CDC is well-positioned to address, including:

  • What are the links between climate variability and weather, particularly extreme events such as floods, droughts, and hurricanes, and how might these links be exploited to develop new and more useful NOAA climate forecast products?
  • What are the relationships between short-term climate phenomena such as El Niño, decadal variability, and global change, and to what extent do these relationships offer prospects for improved understanding and predictions of regional climate variability and change?
  • How can climate information and products be improved to increase societal benefits and mitigate potential adverse impacts related to climate variability and change?

Corresponding emerging areas for CDC research include:

  • Improving understanding and predictions of the links between climate and extreme weather events.

    Our fundamental objective is to increase NOAA's lead-time capabilities for providing watches and warnings of large-scale severe weather and climate events. Research goals include increasing the skill and utility of forecasts on time scales ranging from approximately ten days to a season, and developing new products that extend NOAA's current operational prediction capabilities for high impact weather and climate events. This research supports the NWS operational objective to create an integrated suite of forecast products spanning time scales from minutes to years in advance. The FY01 budget includes new funding in this area under the Climate Observation and Services line, based on an Initiative developed in part by CDC.

  • Improving understanding and forecasts of sub-seasonal tropical-midlatitude interactions.

    The fundamental goal is to improve NOAA's weather and climate forecasts through advances in observations, analyses, understanding, and modeling of subseasonal tropical-midlatitude interactions and their regional impacts on the U.S. This area builds on research indicating that sub-seasonal tropical variability, such as the Madden-Julian Oscillation, can modulate mid-latitude sub-seasonal weather variability in a manner somewhat analogous to El Niño's effects on seasonal climate, and on other work indicating that current models are severely deficient in simulating this tropical variability. An FY02 Initiative in this area has been developed jointly between CDC and ETL, and is a component within the NOAA FY02 Climate Observations and Services budget currently before Congress.

  • Conducting regional integrated science and assessments research.

    It has become increasingly clear that, to be useful for many applications, climate information and forecasts must be provided at regional-to-local scales. Accordingly, CDC will devote increased emphasis on assessing predictability and developing new climate products at regional scales, with the interior western U.S. serving as one focus for development and evaluation. This physical science research will be coordinated with ongoing social science assessments designed to identify current and possible future uses of climate information and forecasts, and to clarify the relationships between climate, society and ecosystems in this highly climate-sensitive region. The initial stages of this research have been funded through the OGP regional assessments program as a joint project between CDC and CIRES. CDC will also participate in and assist other regional assessment projects, as well as the International Research Institute for Climate Predictions (IRI), to fully exploit our climate diagnostic expertise in addressing other fundamental regional climate problems.

  • Increasing CDC research on the connections between short-term climate variability and decadal-to-centennial variability and change.

One of the critical issues facing society is understanding, and potentially predicting, the links between short-term and long-term climate variability and change. The issue is paramount if we are to minimize the possibility of "climate surprises" as well as identify potential impacts of longer-term climate variability on ecosystems and society. Toward this end, CDC has been redirecting some of its resources toward longer-term climate issues, and is also establishing stronger linkages with GFDL (and other climate modeling institutions) to clarify mechanisms for longer-term climate variability and change. Increasing emphasis in this area is likely to continue over the next several years.


The above issues are not independent, and we envision considerable coordination among activities. Likely foci will include the western U.S. as a testbed for evaluating climate forecasts and other experimental regional climate products, and the Pacific sector as a major focus region for evaluating mechanisms for producing climate variability, particularly coupled atmosphere-ocean and tropical-extratropical interactions. Such efforts will also enable coordination with other research programs that are planned in these areas over the next decade under the auspices of programs such as CLIVAR and GEWEX.

In addition to the above areas, over the next 5-10 years CDC envisions opportunities to expand its research to help contribute toward addressing several problems of major societal importance. Much of this work is fundamentally interdisciplinary in nature, and will require collaborations with other research organizations within and outside NOAA. Examples include climate and air quality, climate and human health, and climate effects on ecosystems, including marine resource management in support of NOAA's fundamental environmental stewardship mission. Pilot efforts in some of these areas are already underway.

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