Science can't stop the extreme weather events that appear to be increasing as a result of global warming, but it can help countries prepare and be resilient. That was one of the messages Tuesday at a climate conference that brought 130 experts from around the world to Burlington this week.
The 14th annual Climate Prediction Applications Science Workshop, held in Burlington for the first time, opened Tuesday at the Hilton Burlington hotel and runs through Thursday.
David Grimes, president of the World Meteorological Organization, said weather forecasting has improved immensely over the past 20 years and there is copious data to help countries better prepare for inevitable weather disasters.
"The science is ready," Grimes said.
But, he and other speakers said, many countries aren't making use of available data to guide decisions on agriculture, settlement patterns, water supply and disaster preparation.
"Many countries, many places do not have the capacity," said Filipe Domingos Freires Lúcio, director of the Global Framework for Climate Services Office at the World Meteorological Organization.
International partnerships are needed to help less-developed countries, he said, because the problems aren't going away. For the past three decades the world has been getting "warmer and warmer" and because of this "we have high intensity events occurring with more frequency," said Lucio.
Societies have always dealt with weather disasters, but as they increase, it becomes more difficult, he added. Data can help countries build capacity and make smart choices, said Lucio. "In a wise society we can dream of resilient communities."
The University of Vermont is hosting the conference, whose registrants include leading climate researchers from Japan, Belgium, Indonesia and other parts of the world.
"It's huge," said Lesley-Ann Dupigny-Giroux, Vermont State Climatologist and University of Vermont professor, about the importance of the conference.
And while there was much discussion about bringing expert science to the public, Dupigny-Giroux said, scientists also learn from everyday people.
She gives about 20 talks a year, partly for her own education. She makes a point of hearing what beekeepers and vegetable growers and hikers and sailors have to say about Vermont weather patterns — and often finds this local wisdom to be extremely useful in understanding the climate. "Each of them has a piece of the puzzle."