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WIREs Clim Change
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Climate information websites: an evolving landscape

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The climate change agenda is populated by actors and agencies with different objectives, values, and motivations, yet many seek decision scale climate information to inform policy and adaptation responses. A central element of this network of activity is the climate information website (CIW) that has seen a rapid and organic growth, yet with variable content and quality, and unfettered by any code of practice. This builds an ethical–epistemic dilemma that warrants assessment as the presence of CIWs contribute to real‐world consequences and commitment. This study considers the context of CIW growth, and reviews a representative sample of CIWs to draw out key issues for consideration in CIW development. We assess content, function, and use‐case value through a dual approach of a typology and user experience narratives to evaluate the general efficacy of a CIW. The typology reveals strong contrasts in content, complicated interfaces, and an overload of choice making it difficult to converge on a stable outcome. The narratives capture user experience and highlight barriers that include navigation difficulties, jargon laden content, minimal or opaque guidance, and inferred information without context about uncertainty and limits to skill. This illuminates four concerns: (1) the ethics of information provision in a context of real‐world consequences; (2) interfaces that present barriers to achieving robust solutions; (3) weak capacity of both users and providers to identify information of value from the multimodel and multimethod data; and (4) inclusion of data that infer skill. Nonetheless, results provide a positive indication of a community of practice that is still maturing. WIREs Clim Change 2017, 8:e470. doi: 10.1002/wcc.470 This article is categorized under: Climate Models and Modeling > Knowledge Generation with Models Assessing Impacts of Climate Change > Scenario Development and Application
Geographic distribution of the 42 climate information websites assessed in this study.
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Relationship between the number of global climate models (GCMs, top), regional climate models (RCMs, middle), and statistical downscaling methods (bottom) on the climate information websites (CIWs) which included discrete information on these data sets (32 of 42 CIWs). The x‐axis represents the 32 CIWs, with the same ordering in all three panels and ranked by the number of GCMs incorporated on the CIW. This includes two additional CIWs where the number of statistical methods and/or number of RCMs were unclear. Note that the same model in different versions, resolutions or coupled to different submodels, is counted as different models.
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The number of climate information websites (CIWs) in relation to the number data/information products offered. In each pair of bars, the right bar is the number of sites with only SRES‐based products. The global climate models (GCMs) are shown in panel (a) and include the number of CIWs that offer only historical information (left‐most bar). Downscaled (statistical or dynamical) methods are shown in panel (b), where the bars for zero downscaling methods indicate instead the number of CIWs with only GCM products.
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