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Joint US-Vietnam Climate Training Workshop
Climate Variability and Predictions for the Indian Ocean Basin: Africa and South Asia
22-29 June 2009

Wassila M. Thiaw1, Nguyen Van Thang2, and Nguyen Dai Khanh3
1Climate Prediction Center
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Washington, DC

2Institute of Meteorology Hydrology and Environment
Ministry of Natural Resources
Hanoi, Vietnam

3National Hydrometeorological Service
Ministry of Natural Resources
Hanoi, Vietnam

1. Introduction

NOAA has been very active in capacity building in the area of weather and climate prediction and monitoring for decades. The NCEP International Desks located at both the Climate Prediction Center (CPC) and the Hydrometeorological Prediction Center (HPC) provide training in both weather and climate as part of the US contributions to the WMO Voluntary Cooperation Program (VCP). Despite the successes of the International Desks, the demand for climate training from developing countries around the world far exceeds the capacity to provide it at NCEP. Over the past few years, CPC has been working with USAID to leverage capacity building efforts and to reach out to as many countries as possible that do not participate in the residency training program offered at NCEP. The Joint US-Vietnam climate training workshop is the first in a series of global training workshops that NOAA and USAID plan to conduct in collaboration with UCAR and various other domestic and international partners. This report will summarize the June 2009 workshop and discuss future plans.

2. Workshop summary

The joint US-Vietnam training workshop took place in Hanoi, Vietnam 22-29 June 2009. The workshop was primarily funded by the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) of the US Agency for International Development (USAID). The Climate Prediction Center’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) assumed the scientific leadership role in organizing the training workshop. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) cosponsored the workshop. The International Research Institute for Climate and Society provided technical assistance. The University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), the Vietnam Institute of Meteorology Hydrology and Environment (IMHEN) and the National Hydrometeorological Service (MHMS) arranged the logistics for the workshop.

The workshop attracted over 40 participants (Fig. 1), including lecturers from the US, Africa, Asia, and Australia. The participants were from 17 countries in

Fig. 1  Group picture for the participants during a Classroom session. (Click the picture to enlarge.)

eastern and southeastern Africa, south and southeastern Asia. The objective was to increase the capacity of institutions in the Indian Ocean Basin in climate monitoring, predictions, and climate risk assessment and to improve the delivery of climate services. The workshop consisted of two parts. The first part was on climate science, and the second part was hands-on practical training on climate diagnostics and predictions. The IRI developed Climate Predictability Tool (CPT) was used in the hands-on training. The objective of the science workshop was to reinforce the understanding of the basics of climate science. This part of the training workshop was in lecture format on topics ranging from the climate base state and its variability, climate dynamics, the modes of variability on both interannual and intraseasonal time scales, teleconnections, monsoons, climate predictions, impact assessments, and climate services. The objective of the hands-on training workshop was to provide participants with the tools they need to acquire or improve proficiency in climate diagnostics and long range prediction. The participants were divided in teams of approximately two. A computer was assigned to each team and they were able to work with CPT to develop seasonal predictions models for their regions of interest. The participants further explored new techniques for forecast verifications and how to communicate the information to the users. The teams worked extremely hard to complete their case studies. There were more than ten presentations by the participants at the end of the workshop to summarize findings by each team. Figure 2 is an example of experiments that were run by the Vietnam Team. The two experiments show that surface temperature variability in Vietnam is associated with an SST dipole structure in the western Pacific and eastern Indian Ocean sectors such that cooling (warming) in the eastern Indian Ocean and warming (cooling) in the western Pacific are associated with a decrease (increase) in surface temperature over Vietnam.

The outcome of the workshop is multi faceted. First, it was a real opportunity to reach out to the many professional scientists from different countries in Africa and Asia who did not have access to the NCEP residency training program, and to provide these scientists with training that is critical to the mission of their institutions. These professionals returned to their home countries with a better understanding of the fundamentals of climate science and a mastering of tools for climate monitoring and predictions. The workshop also provided an opportunity to prepare training materials, some of which are specifically tailored to the regions of interest. These materials not only are made available to the participants, but also are available on the CPC web site for any person who might be interested.

3. Climate change panel discussion

The workshop convened a panel discussion on climate change and society. Panelists included scientists from Vietnam, Kenya, and New Zealand. The discussions    were    moderated    by    the    WMO

Fig. 2 Predictor and predictand loading patterns for two experimental seasonal forecasts for 2 meter temperature over Vietnam and the associated canonical time series. Predictor data is NOAA NCDC ERSST data in January for simultaneous prediction (EXP1) and in December for zero lead (EXP2). (Click the figure to enlarge.)

representative. There were five presentations by the panelists, including the Vietnam National Target Program, socio-economic impacts and biodiversity associated with sea level rise and the role of early warning systems in responding to climate change. The objective was to discuss research opportunities including capacity building in climate change science and adaptations to climate change. The panelists and the participants acknowledged that there is evidence that climate change is occurring and that the impact of these shifts are being felt in several parts in Africa and Asia. The group discussed the relevance of space and temporal scales when assessing climate change impacts and the need to tailor the information to satisfy users’ requirements. The need to develop robust tools and strategies to improve the predictions of extreme events, including floods, droughts, and to mitigate the impacts of such events was discussed.

The group recognized that capacity building at both national and regional levels is important to achieving these goals. The issue of uncertainty in climate change projections and how the science community needs to be creative in communicating such information to decision makers is critical. Scientists from emerging nations have an important role to play. A clear first step is to build capacity in downscaling techniques of climate information generated at global centers through rigorous training of scientists with great potentials to succeed. There also need to be institutional commitments to ensure successful implementation of the knowledge gained from the training. Domestic and regional interagency and international collaboration is to be fostered to ensure improved climate services through the delivery of tailored climate forecasts and monitoring products and in a way that is meaningful to government policy makers and socio-economic stake holders in agriculture, water resource management, health, etc. This will result in the development of national and/or regional early warning systems that feature an end to end forecast process from data collection, analysis, predictions, and dissemination to government agencies and down to a well informed community ready to make critical decisions based on the forecasts. The group recognized that pilot projects can be effective ways to develop an end to end forecast process and need to be encouraged.

4. Future Plan

The participants expressed an interest in a follow-on activity to evaluate the workshop and to sustain the knowledge gained. CPC is in discussion with OFDA/USAID for a possible workshop in 2010 that will bring together some of the participants who were able to continue to work on their projects. This will provide these professionals with an opportunity to present their work and to discuss future collaborative efforts among participants and between them and US scientists. In addition, the 2010 training workshop “Climate Variability and Predictions for the Mediterranean Basin” is being planned. Similar to the workshop held in Vietnam, it is anticipated that the workshop will attract professional meteorologists and climate scientists from countries in the Mediterranean basin, including northern Africa, southeastern Europe, and the Middle East. The venue for the workshop is being discussed and details will be available soon. This second annual workshop will be followed by a third workshop for the Atlantic Basin in 2011, and a fourth workshop for the Pacific basin in 2012. A global workshop that will bring together all the participants from previous workshops is being discussed and may take place in 2013.

Acknowledgements.  We are indebted to the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) for providing funding for the training workshop, to the Vietnam Institute of Meteorology Hydrology and Environment (IMHEN) and the National Hydrometeorological Service (MHMS) for hosting the workshop. Appreciation is expressed to NCEP and CPC, and the US Embassy in Hanoi for invaluable support for the training workshop. We are also grateful to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) for cosponsoring the workshop, the International Research Institute for Climate and Society for leading the hands-on training on the CPT, and the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) for arranging the logistics for the training workshop. We are thankful for the contributions from all lecturers including scientists from the Bureau of Meteorology of Australia, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, CPC, the IRI, the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) of New Zealand, UCAR, the University of Cape Town in South Africa, the University of Nairobi in Kenya, and WMO. Their efforts were invaluable for the success of the workshop. Finally we thank all the National Meteorological and Hydrological Services and regional institutions in eastern and southeastern Africa, south and southeastern Asia that made available their professionals to participate in the training program.

Workshop Co-Directors:         Dr. Wassila Thiaw, CPC/NOAA

Dr. Nguyen Van Thang, IMHEN
Dr. Nguyen Dai Khanh, NHMS

Lecturers:                                   Dr. Rupa Kumar Kolli, WMO

Dr. Vernon Kousky, CPC
Dr. Vadlamani Kumar, CPC
Dr. Simon Mason, IRI
Prof. Chris Reason, UCT
Dr. James Renwick, NIWA
Dr. Gilbert Ouma, University of Nairobi
Dr. Wassila Thiaw, CPC
Dr. Mathew Wheeler, Australia BOM
Prof. Guoxiong Wu, Chinese Academy of Sciences

Contact:   Wassila Thiaw