Weather forecasts are used by everybody, but some people pay closer attention to them than others. Severe weather conditions can endanger lives on the roads, at sea and in the air, so transport and safety organizations are regularly updated on the weather situation. Many businesses, from farming and fishing to hotels and restaurants can be affected by the weather, so a forecast can help with business planning.

            This chapter examines recent and expected developments in the scientific capability to make seasonal-to-interannual climate forecasts and discusses the types of forecasts that are likely to be socially useful. As background for readers unfamiliar with climate forecasting, we begin by discussing the distinction between weather and climate and how climate forecasts are made.

            We are all familiar with the progression of the weather. Every few days, the temperature changes, rain comes and goes, or a severe storm hits. The characteristic time scale for changes in weather in the mid-latitudes is a few days or less. In the tropics, especially over the ocean, the weather tends to be much steadier, with sunny weather and steady trade winds punctuated by an hour of daily downpour (usually in the late afternoon) or by a squall every few days.

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