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Storylines: an alternative approach to representing uncertainty in physical aspects of climate change

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Hayley Fowler

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Abstract

© 2018, The Author(s). As climate change research becomes increasingly applied, the need for actionable information is growing rapidly. A key aspect of this requirement is the representation of uncertainties. The conventional approach to representing uncertainty in physical aspects of climate change is probabilistic, based on ensembles of climate model simulations. In the face of deep uncertainties, the known limitations of this approach are becoming increasingly apparent. An alternative is thus emerging which may be called a ‘storyline’ approach. We define a storyline as a physically self-consistent unfolding of past events, or of plausible future events or pathways. No a priori probability of the storyline is assessed; emphasis is placed instead on understanding the driving factors involved, and the plausibility of those factors. We introduce a typology of four reasons for using storylines to represent uncertainty in physical aspects of climate change: (i) improving risk awareness by framing risk in an event-oriented rather than a probabilistic manner, which corresponds more directly to how people perceive and respond to risk; (ii) strengthening decision-making by allowing one to work backward from a particular vulnerability or decision point, combining climate change information with other relevant factors to address compound risk and develop appropriate stress tests; (iii) providing a physical basis for partitioning uncertainty, thereby allowing the use of more credible regional models in a conditioned manner and (iv) exploring the boundaries of plausibility, thereby guarding against false precision and surprise. Storylines also offer a powerful way of linking physical with human aspects of climate change.


Publication metadata

Author(s): Shepherd TG, Boyd E, Calel RA, Chapman SC, Dessai S, Dima-West IM, Fowler HJ, James R, Maraun D, Martius O, Senior CA, Sobel AH, Stainforth DA, Tett SFB, Trenberth KE, van den Hurk BJJM, Watkins NW, Wilby RL, Zenghelis DA

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Climatic Change

Year: 2018

Volume: 151

Issue: 3-4

Pages: 555-571

Print publication date: 01/12/2018

Online publication date: 10/11/2018

Acceptance date: 19/10/2018

ISSN (print): 0165-0009

ISSN (electronic): 1573-1480

Publisher: Springer Netherlands

URL: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-018-2317-9

DOI: 10.1007/s10584-018-2317-9


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