CLIVAR Successes

The original objectives of CLIVAR were directed at (1) describing and understanding “the physical processes responsible for climate variability and predictability on seasonal, interannual, decadal, and centennial time-scales” and (2) “to detect the anthropogenic modification of the natural climate signal”.  These objectives were to place particular emphasis on WCRP’s ocean-climate theme.  However, in order to adapt to society’s increasing demands for more understandable, accurate and timely climate information, CLIVAR and WCRP must evolve.   As a major step in this evolution, CLIVAR has developed beginning in 2010 and continuing to evolve three ‘Scientific Frontiers’ and four ‘Imperatives’ to serve as the framework for CLIVAR and appropriate WCRP-wide activities through the mid 2010s.  To reemphasize the role of these Frontiers and Imperatives, they are not only to serve CLIVAR but also WCRP through a CLIVAR perspective.

The Scientific Frontiers are the major climate themes to be addressed by CLIVAR and appropriate WCRP activities.  The Imperatives represent the enabling science needed to achieve the goals of the Frontiers.  Both the Frontiers and Imperatives build on the original objectives and methods of CLIVAR and the successes realized in addressing these objectives.  These successes provide the foundation for the Frontiers and Imperatives and can be framed as the four legs supporting the CLIVAR table: observations, modelling, synthesis and analysis, and process studies.  A very brief summary of CLIVAR successes is given to provide the rationale for the Frontiers and Imperatives.


Major multinational observational networks have been initiated in all the ocean basins.  The Indian Ocean network and the Argo array in the Southern Ocean are shown as examples.

Research Moored Array for African-Asian-Australian Monsoon Analysis and Prediction (RAMA)Argo floats deployed in the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC)


Modelling advances have been achieved through the CMIP and CHFP programs.  The CLIVAR modelling community is in the midst of CMIP5 and will begin to provide results by the spring of 2011.  CMIP5 efforts build on the many successes of CMIP3.

Climate projections: CMIP5 Unprecedented International Coordination

The CHFP project has been directed at improving numerical models.  Emphasis has been placed on improving seasonal predictions as illustrated in the following figure.

Seasonal to interannual prediction climate system historical forecast project

Synthesis and Analysis

Considerable effort has been directed at performing reanalyses studies with particular attention directed at identifying and correcting biases in observing systems.  The following figure shows the difference in estimates of the global ocean heat content of the upper 700 m derived from different data sets and analytical methods.  The Domingues et al.  (2008) time series was estimated using XBT data corrected for depth biases, the other curves have not been corrected.  The differences are dramatic between 1970 and 1985.

Ocean synthesis intercomparison activity

Process Studies

Process studies have and continue to be conducted globally concentrating on processes and regions of potential strong climate relevance.  Several process studies are shown in the following figure.

CLIVAR-endorsed process studies on atmosphere-ocean interactions

These earlier studies provide the foundation for the future of CLIVAR studies expressed through CLIVAR Frontiers and Imperatives. However, although based on the initial CLIVAR objectives, the Frontiers and Imperatives recognize the rapid evolution of climate science, in particular, the need to become more responsive to societies requirements for climate services.

To achieve this responsiveness the Frontiers and Imperatives acknowledge the need for the scientific community to accept roles far different from their long practiced methods.  These earlier methods were based on scientists doing basic research with their data and not being concerned with wider applications of their results.   Today, data hoarding by individual scientists until publications are completed can no longer be accepted and all data must be made accessible in a timely manner.  In addition, scientists must learn to work together sharing data to meet important goals.

Equally important, scientists as individuals or as group members must be able to translate their results into forms useable by the operational agencies that produce climate forecasts and then into products that are understandable by policy makers and the general public.  These products must also be multidisciplinary in recognition of the multidimensional effects of climate on society.  Finally, scientists must become active participants in capacity building to ensure that there are sufficient numbers of climate scientists in the future to meet the demands of producing effective climate services.

The physical science questions that must be answered to develop climate forecast capabilities form the foundation for the CLIVAR Frontiers and Imperatives.  However, to provide climate services that fully meet societal goals, the Frontiers and Imperatives recognize the critical need for strong interdisciplinary interactions between those working on the same topic. Thus, the CLIVAR Frontiers and Imperatives have a WCRP-wide perspective and include at a minimum coordination between modellers and observationalists, atmospheric and oceanic scientists and physical scientists and biogeochemical scientists.

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