Limits to the quantification of local climate change

Chapman, Sandra C.; Stainforth, David A. and Watkins, Nicholas W. (2015). Limits to the quantification of local climate change. Environmental Research Letters, 10(9), article no. 094018.



We demonstrate how the fundamental timescales of anthropogenic climate change limit the identification of societally relevant aspects of changes in precipitation. We show that it is nevertheless possible to extract, solely from observations, some confident quantified assessments of change at certain thresholds and locations. Maps of such changes, for a variety of hydrologically-relevant, threshold-dependent metrics, are presented. In places in Scotland, for instance, the total precipitation on heavy rainfall days in winter has increased by more than 50%, but only in some locations has this been accompanied by a substantial increase in total seasonal precipitation; an important distinction for water and land management. These results are important for the presentation of scientific data by climate services, as a benchmark requirement for models which are used to provide projections on local scales, and for process-based climate and impacts research to understand local modulation of synoptic and global scale climate. They are a critical foundation for adaptation planning and for the scientific provision of locally relevant information about future climate.

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