The combination of climate variability and change pose significant risks for the Caribbean region. Pressures on regional resources are anticipated to increase along with demands due to population growth and the expansion of tourism. Coupled with these risks are:
- The threats already posed to society from today’s climate extremes and variations
- The potentially high-impact but uncertain additional risks presented by climate change
Regional Climate Outlook Forums (RCOF), sponsored by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) are active in several parts of the world. These RCOFs are critical for the development and delivery of effective early warning systems, in that they provide real-time seasonal climate forecasts and interpretation across relevant time and spatial scales. The Caribbean Climate Outlook Forum (CariCOF) is one such RCOF that seeks to develop appropriate climate services, tailored to the Caribbean region to support the goals of climate variability and change adaptation and disaster risk reduction.
Failure to maintain a Caribbean RCOF after initial activity in the late 1990s meant that such early warning systems were in jeopardy. However, in June 2010, a workshop was convened to re-establish the CariCOF in order to develop a sustained collaborative process that provides credible and authoritative real-time regional climate products. This did not include the delivery of outlooks, but rather sought direction and regional support for future CariCOF activity. The first CariCOF since re-establishment that included the delivery of a rainfall forecast occurred in March 2012. There, a rainfall forecast for the period March to May 2012 was discussed by the many stakeholders present that represented some key climate sensitive sectors such as agriculture, health, water resources management, along with those from disaster management. This successful stakeholder forum that succeeded a taining workshop on seasonal rainfall forecasting for meteorologist, was deemed a success. It was agreed that such forums were extremely important, and should be held twice per year just prior to the beginning of the wet and dry seasons in the Caribbean.
Ever since 2013, CariCOF has been held at the end of May/beginning to June to deliver forecasts for the wet/hurricane season, while the first dry season CariCOF was hosted by Antigua and Barbuda in November/December 2014. Between CariCOFs, the region’s meteorologists/climatologists now numbering some 20 or more, update the forecasts monthly and deliver them to a wide range of regional and national stakeholders. The suite of forecasts currently includes products for rainfall and temperature for up to 3 to 6 months; and for drought that itself include an alerting system supported by response actions that were developed with the stakeholders. It is anticipated that other products and applications will be added as training continues for meteorologists/climatologists from across the region.