Prototype climate services highlighted at UK-China climate science conference

Posted November 19th, 2020

By Sally Stevens, Communications & Engagement Manager at the IEA

“By working together and pooling our joint expertise, we produce new knowledge and technologies that have the power to transform the world into a better place”

– Danae Dholakia, Minister Counsellor (Prosperity), Newton Fund

It takes more than a pandemic to prevent leading climate scientists from collaborating across nearly 5,000 miles, to produce ground-breaking climate services to share with the world, as the Climate Science for Services Partnership (CSSP) China 7th Annual Workshop proved.

The three-day virtual conference brought together more than 100 world experts from the Met Office, UK universities and institutions, the China Meteorological Administration (CMA), the Institute of Atmospheric Physics at the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Chinese universities from October 13-15.

Advances in planning for life-threatening heatwaves, forecasting tropical cyclones and risks to global food security were shared by the diverse team. Their research is being developed into a wide range of potential climate services to understand the current climate as well as future climate, particularly extreme conditions. The partnership is helping governments and agencies, with a focus on China, to better understand our climate and climate adaptation. China, which is responsible for around 28% of global emissions of CO2, announced earlier in October its intention to tackle climate mitigation by achieving carbon neutrality by 2060.

Adapting to global challenges and restrictions

Danae Dholakia, Minister Counsellor (Prosperity), spoke at the conference on behalf of the UK Government’s Newton Fund, praising the delegates for their determination to adapt to the restrictions on face-to-face collaboration.

She said: “We face unprecedented challenges in the world, not least with the recent Covid-19 pandemic, which has meant that this year’s workshop is taking place virtually. It is the shared position of both the UK and China that we can and should work together to tackle global challenges and achieve the UN’s sustainable development goals.

“By working together and pooling our joint expertise, we produce new knowledge and technologies that have the power to transform the world into a better place.”

Dr Peiqun Zhang, Chief Engineer of the National Climate Centre, CMA, highlighted the scientific progress achieved by the UK-China collaboration, saying: “We thank our British partners for exciting results and progress for climate science and services.”

Using scientific expertise to build resilience

CSSP China is supported by the Newton Fund and the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) as part of the Met Office’s global Weather and Climate Science for Service Partnership (WCSSP) programme which also covers India, South Africa, Southeast Asia and Brazil. Its aim is to develop partnerships harnessing UK scientific expertise to strengthen the resilience of vulnerable communities to weather and climate variability.

Prof Adam Scaife is the senior scientist for the UK in CSSP China.  He commented: “Despite the difficulty and changes caused by the pandemic, we have successfully continued our research and development in the project. Around 100 peer reviewed publications were submitted or published from the project this year and this is a testament to our strong UK-China collaborative networks.”

Face-to-face co-development of innovative climate services and engagement with national, regional and provincial stakeholders have been organised by the CCSP China project at workshops in China and the UK. Scientists from both countries took part in working-visits until travel restrictions were imposed by Covid-19. Nevertheless, relationships have continued to be built through virtual platforms and online events.

New breakthroughs in climate services

Highlights from the workshop included:

  • A breakthrough from Imperial College in seasonal forecasting of tropical cyclones on the South Coast of China of up to one year in advance, which is about to be published in Communications Earth and Environment. Typhoons are one of the most destructive disasters that can cause torrential rain, powerful winds, storm surges, floods, landslides, buildings destroyed, fatal injuries, economic losses and long-term disruption. This prototype seasonal forecasting service could be used by regional governments in managing risks, including purchasing insurance.
  • City Packs, produced by the Met Office, presenting non-technical summaries of the potential impact of climate change on individual cities across China, designed to be used by city officials, planners, infrastructure-designers and decision-makers.
  • A climate risk tool tailored to individual cities or regions developed by Arup with training being developed by VIEWpoint. This explores the likelihood of extreme weather events in the future, using observed and modelled data, and identifies and rates vulnerabilities of infrastructure to specific climate hazards, recommending mitigating action.
  • A Surface Urban Heat Island Explorer created by the Met Office and being turned into an interactive mapped visualisation by VIEWpoint. This uses satellite data sources to monitor land surface skin temperature – the temperature that buildings and surfaces reach – which are higher than air temperatures but reflect what people experience in urban environments as bricks and concrete warm in the sun. This work will allow decision-makers in health care, urban design and local government to explore urban temperatures for themselves.
  • Innovative user-engagement materials in production by the Met Office include a series of stylish infographics in Mandarin and a comic book-style storyline planned to become an animation to encourage crop producers to interact with CSSP China’s food security research focusing on maize crops and yield.
  • A wide range of user-friendly content being produced by VIEWpoint, a CSSP China project awarded to the Institute for Environmental Analytics. It will showcase research and climate services from across all the projects to encourage take-up by governments, environmental resource managers and organisations, potentially around the world. It will include data visualisations, demonstrators, dissemination and training materials, a searchable catalogue of CSSP China’s 350-plus published papers and a website, produced in English with many resources translated into Mandarin. VIEWpoint’s website is being designed to enable worldwide ease of access to CSSP China data, climate services, training and communications materials.

Tyrone Dunbar, International Climate Services Manager at the Met Office, highlighted the value of engagement with users in China through the CMA and IAP, including water resource managers, and the importance of accessibility to the climate science and, saying: “VIEWpoint are doing a huge amount of work cutting across the whole programme, including producing videos, a website and translating a lot of content into Mandarin.”

Data tools and techniques to address climate change

The data, tools, techniques and climate models developed over the seven years of the CSSP China project are already being applied to other parts of the world to help understand climate change, monitor its impact and how best to protect communities, infrastructure and environments around the globe.

The VIEWpoint project comes to an end in spring 2021 when its new website and contents will be launched officially.

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Infographic showing how the IEA's skills will promote the use of cutting-edge climate data and climate services in China