The Regional Climate Outlook Forums (RCOFs) have been operational in many parts of the world with the aim to provide collaboratively developed and consensus-based seasonal climate outlooks and related information on a regional scale. These activities support decision-making to manage climate-related risks and support sustainable development. This process was initiated by the World Meteorological Organization/Climate Information and Prediction Services (WMO/CLIPS) project, in collaboration with National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs), and regional/international climate centres among many other partners. The outlooks generally include probabilistic predictions of seasonal mean rainfall, surface air temperature and other weather parameters, as well as the likely evolution of key drivers of seasonal climate variability relevant to the region such as the El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO).
The generic format for a RCOF includes a pre-RCOF capacity-building component for operational climate experts from NMHSs to improve understanding of the regional climate processes, access/interpret global/regional climate prediction products, and gain skills in operational seasonal prediction at the regional and national scales. This is followed by the Forum proper with sessions devoted to interpret the available real-time seasonal prediction products from WMO Global Producing Centres for Long Range Forecasts (GPCs) and WMO Regional Climate Centres (RCCs), assessment of the skills of forecasting systems, development of the consensus seasonal climate outlook statement for the region, and discussion on the potential applications of RCOF products. The key participants of the forum are operational climate experts from the NMHSs of the specific region. In many regions, additional technical support is provided by the regional/international experts.
The RCOF also often has specific user-focused sessions that provide opportunities for interactions between climate scientists and sector experts. Such sessions assess lessons and experiences regarding the use of climate information by the specific sector, before addressing needs, priorities, and future strategies for improving sector-specific use of seasonal climate outlooks. The users also discuss their sector-specific benefits and impacts of the earlier RCOF products on their activities.
The potential for an RCOF in the Southeast Asian region has been discussed in several platforms and WMO has agreed to support an annual RCOF meeting in Southeast Asia ahead of the winter monsoon season. The inaugural meeting took place on 3-5 December 2013 in Singapore.