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

Shepherd, Theodore G.; Boyd, Emily LU ; Calel, Raphael A.; Chapman, Sandra C.; Dessai, Suraje; Dima-West, Ioana M.; Fowler, Hayley J.; James, Rachel; Maraun, Douglas and Martius, Olivia, et al. (2018) In Climatic Change 151(3-4). p.555-571
Abstract

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... (More)

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.

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organization
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Contribution to journal
publication status
published
subject
in
Climatic Change
volume
151
issue
3-4
pages
555 - 571
publisher
Springer
external identifiers
  • scopus:85056359200
ISSN
0165-0009
DOI
10.1007/s10584-018-2317-9
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
d0760f79-a60d-4812-be01-dbdcac150d5f
date added to LUP
2018-11-26 08:00:31
date last changed
2019-01-14 16:23:27
@article{d0760f79-a60d-4812-be01-dbdcac150d5f,
  abstract     = {<p>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.</p>},
  author       = {Shepherd, Theodore G. and Boyd, Emily and Calel, Raphael A. and Chapman, Sandra C. and Dessai, Suraje and Dima-West, Ioana M. and Fowler, Hayley J. and James, Rachel and Maraun, Douglas and Martius, Olivia and Senior, Catherine A. and Sobel, Adam H. and Stainforth, David A. and Tett, Simon F.B. and Trenberth, Kevin E. and van den Hurk, Bart J.J.M. and Watkins, Nicholas W. and Wilby, Robert L. and Zenghelis, Dimitri A.},
  issn         = {0165-0009},
  language     = {eng},
  month        = {11},
  number       = {3-4},
  pages        = {555--571},
  publisher    = {Springer},
  series       = {Climatic Change},
  title        = {Storylines : an alternative approach to representing uncertainty in physical aspects of climate change},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10584-018-2317-9},
  volume       = {151},
  year         = {2018},
}