Dr Carlo Buontempo Climate Hazard and Impact Processes Team Manager
14 April 2014
After leading the Climate Adaptation team at the Met Office Hadley Centre between 2010 and 2014, Dr Carlo Buontempo is now leading the European Climate Service team. It's his role to develop new tools that help decision makers manage their climate risk portfolio.
Whether the end goal is to protect homes from flooding, to safeguard next year's harvest or keep the transportation systems in the UK running smoothly - an in-depth understanding of local climates and how they are changing is vital. That's exactly why Carlo and his team use regional climate modelling to develop scenarios for weather in specific regions, over defined timescales.
Developing climate scenarios at a regional level is no easy task - especially when the timescales they work with range from seasonal right up to decadal. There are a huge number of factors to consider. The weather, for example, can be greatly affected by the geography and topography of specific locations and this can change over a relatively small area.
"The great value in establishing relationships with other organisations...is that it gives a sense of transparency to what we do."
Very precise information is critical - which is why Carlo and his team are constantly refining the tools and models they work with. Recent developments mean it's becoming possible to study regions more closely. And, as Carlo explains, his team are working on "initial runs of very high resolution regional models", meaning they can begin to study smaller regions in greater detail.
However, building climate scenarios is only one of the challenges Carlo's team faces. Ultimately, it's their role to help deliver better information to decision-makers in a range of organisations. But it's not always immediately clear to the decision-makers why detailed climate information could be useful. Part of Carlo's role is to outline the benefits of such data - and for this, he takes a very analytical approach.
"First we analyse their existing climate risk profile and look at the properties affecting it at present. Then we can ask how this might change in the future."
It's a persuasive process - and one that involves looking at how organisations may have reacted differently to recent severe weather if they could have drawn on more detailed climate information. The evidence usually speaks for itself and helps Carlo build a dialogue with policymakers from a wide range of sectors.
Carlo's work is not restricted to the UK. He makes Met Office technology available around the world through collaborative projects, the most recent being EUPORIAS.
Back in 2009, another project took Carlo to Egypt, where he worked with a water resources organisation, DHI and the Egyptian Ministry for Water Resources and Irrigation (MWRI) to explore impacts of climate change on the Nile Basin. The project involved a host of challenges including the difficulty of studying such a diverse climate, which ranges from tropical rainstorms to desert conditions.
This variation of weather in the region meant it was possible to create only a statistical assessment of how the climate might change. The project ran one model that reproduced the present-day Nile climate as closely as possible, alongside another model used by the MWRI to assess water availability across the Basin. The use of multiple models in this way allows for a stronger prediction particularly, Carlo says, "in an area as complex as the Nile."
The project proved successful, not only in building knowledge of the Nile Basin's climate - but also in providing training that has enabled the various teams involved to continue developing climate scenarios using Met Office technology.
As well as international projects, Carlo explores ways to involve a wider audience in climate topics and, as he puts it, "break the barrier between the users and generators of climate information."
For Carlo, building relationships with non-scientific groups worldwide is an important way to create a "sense of ownership" of climate issues - to make people more aware of how climate affects them.
"The great value in establishing relationships with other organisations from different backgrounds, is that it gives a sense of transparency to what we do. This is one of our most important roles if we really want our information to trigger people's decisions."