Navigating weather, water, ice and climate change information for safe polar mobilities

The Polar Prediction Project (PPP) was conceived and initiated in 2012 by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), through its World Weather Research Programme (WWRP), in response to rapid environmental change in the Polar Regions. The primary goal of the PPP is to advance scientific knowledge such that society, both within and outside of the Arctic and Antarctic, may benefit through applications of improved weather and climate services. This includes improved understanding and prediction of physical parameters and the ways people use the available information. To this end, the Polar Prediction Project Societal and Economic Research and Applications (PPP-SERA) working group was established in 2015. This report represents the foundational work of PPP-SERA and aims to explore how weather, water, ice and climate (WWIC) information is currently being used and produced in the Polar Regions, by whom, and for what reasons. The report also identifies, frames and articulates important areas of research related to the use and provision of environmental prediction services that should be prioritized and further developed during, and beyond, the Year of Polar Prediction (YOPP, 2017-19). The concepts of information value chains and human mobilities are used in this document to conceptualize the complex interaction between the production and use of environmental prediction information. This approach facilitates: (a) the exploration of WWIC-related risks that affect physical movement of people, goods and services between places (i.e. mobilities); (b) an examination of the demand for, and production and mobilization of, WWIC knowledge and information that can inform user decisions (i.e. value chain). We identify that WWIC information provision occurs through a variety of actors, from formal state institutions, to private and community-based organizations, to Indigenous and local knowledge obtained by a range of individual actors or groups, positioned in an increasingly complex value chain of information provision and use. The constitution, functioning and implications of these increasingly complex WWIC information value chains are currently not fully understood. Value chains used to describe linear processes whereby WWIC information was transferred directly from providers to users. Today, users not only consume WWIC information but they also co-produce data, information, and decisionmaking products. This has largely been facilitated by technological advancement and improved communications via the Internet, which promotes a decentralization of WWIC information services. Consequently, it is difficult to discern whether or not user needs are being adequately identified and addressed by providers and whether WWIC services are adding value to users. Our analysis indicates that human activities and mobility sectors operating in the Polar Regions vary widely in size and scope, and are diverse in terms of operational contexts and practices. Despite the challenge of mapping the temporal and spatial dimensions of human activities in the Polar Regions, due to a paucity of consistent information, we discuss relevant characteristics and future prospects of a range of distinct mobility sectors including: (a) commercial transportation (shipping and aviation); (b) tourism: (c) fishing; (d) resource extraction and development; (e) community activities; (f) government activities and scientific research. Most activities are on the rise and human activities in the Polar Regions are becoming increasingly diversified. Users appear to be increasingly dependent on specialised WWIC information services and technology needed to access these. More detailed, specialized and near-real-time weather and climate services are required to provide relevant information for a diversity of contexts and practices. While higher-quality WWIC information and greater resolution of data is necessary for some, it is insufficient for all. There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ data product needed to assist the variety of users. Furthermore, the existence of more and improved WWIC information does not necessarily mean that it will be used. For WWIC data to be valuable and used, they must be trusted, easily understood, accessible, and packaged for easy transmission to remote areas with limited Internet bandwidth. There is also a need for systematic documentation regarding particular uses of existing WWIC information services, and thus more work is needed to collect data necessary to situate human activities and their mobilities within their spatial-temporal contexts and decisionmaking practices. To respond to these knowledge gaps, we identify that in-depth qualitative and quantitative research is needed which explores: (a) user information needs, behaviours and preferences; (b) the relationship between users and providers of WWIC information, including the co-production of services; (c) factors that enable or constrain access to, or provision of, WWIC information services; (d) infrastructure and communication needs. PPP-SERA, and social scientists involved in research that focuses on the Polar Regions more broadly, can contribute to addressing some of the knowledge gaps outlined in this document. We have compiled an initial database of sources for WWIC information that is of relevance for different user sectors and across different regions, and we envision broader and ongoing contributions to this effort. We also identify a need for categorization of users, decision factors, services sought and providers tailoring products for specific mobilities. This will highlight the complexity and interconnections between users, providers and decisionmaking contexts across the Polar Regions. The Polar Regions are undergoing dramatic environmental changes while seeing a general growth and diversification of human activity. These changes imply that WWIC services not only need to respond to rapidly transforming environmental parameters, but ought to be salient in the diverse contexts in which users engage with them. While it is still largely unknown how WWIC information services are currently being used, and to what extent they influence decisionmaking and planning, improved access to, and quality of, WWIC information is considered as significant for reducing the risks related to human activities in dynamic polar environments.

Details

Publication status:
Published
Author(s):
Authors: Dawson, Jackie, Hoke, Winfried, Larners, Machiel, Liggett, Daniela, Ljubicic, Gita, Mills, Brian, Stewart, Emma, Thoman, Rick, Atkinson, David, Hughes, Kevin, Knol, Maaike, Wilson, Katherine

On this site: Kevin Hughes
Date:
1 October, 2017
Journal/Source:
Geneva, World Meteorological Organization, 84 pp.
Page(s):
84pp