What are climate services?

Storm drain after heavy rainfall

How much air conditioning will buildings need to keep up with rising temperatures? How much capacity will stormwater drains need to handle heavier downpours? Or how should a local government engage its community to reduce wildfire risk? Answering these questions, and many others, requires solid climate change information and guidance on how to use it. Making sure that people and organizations have widespread and affordable access to this information and guidance is what the concept of climate services is all about. Broadly defined, climate services represent the diverse collection of products and organizations that informs and supports decisions sensitive to climate variability and change. 

For years, weather services have provided reliable information to guide all kinds of decisions around the world. Climate services aim to reflect this legacy, while taking into account the longer time horizon for climate decision-making and additional sources of uncertainty. Early prototypes of climate services in the 1990s included early warning systems for climate cycles like El Niño and the development of NOAA’s Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments, based at universities across the U.S and mandated to produce usable climate information.

The first Global Framework for Climate Services was codified by the World Meteorological Organization in 2009. This framework continues to help guide climate services within governments, nonprofits, and private sector companies. Today, many organizations large and small have a mission to deliver climate services. A 2016 survey in the Western US. identified 136 different organizations providing some form of climate service. 

Climate service providers often recognize the fundamental importance of collaboration between scientific organizations and entities that use science to make decisions. At the same time, climate service providers are also finding ways to scale up access to information through the development of data portals or do-it-yourself, self-guided practices. Many climate service providers embrace the significant ethical implications of their work. Recently, there has been increased attention on how to ensure climate services contribute to equitable decisions and policies. Despite progress, a recent assessment of climate services identified efforts to date have been more effective at providing data than helping make better decisions (Findlater et al., 2021). 

For its part, AGCI works across scales to improve the capacity and quality of climate services. We do this by supporting learning-by-doing, peer learning, and research on the local to international scale:

For more information, or to inquire about partnerships on climate service related initiatives, please contact