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

Shepherd, Theodore G.; Boyd, Emily; Calel, Raphael A.; Chapman, Sandra C.; Dessai, Suraje; Dima-West, Ioana M.; Fowler, Hayley J.; James, Rachel; Maraun, Douglas; Martius, Olivia; Senior, Catherine A.; Sobel, Adam H.; Stainforth, David A.; Tett, Simon F. B.; Trenberth, Kevin E.; van den Hurk, Bart J. J. M.; Watkins, Nicholas W.; Wilby, Robert L.; Zenghelis, Dimitri A. (2018). Storylines: an alternative approach to representing uncertainty in physical aspects of climate change. Climatic change, 151(3-4), pp. 555-571. Springer 10.1007/s10584-018-2317-9

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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.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)

Division/Institute:

08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
10 Strategic Research Centers > Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research (OCCR)
08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography > Physical Geography > Unit Impact
08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography > Physical Geography

UniBE Contributor:

Romppainen-Martius, Olivia

Subjects:

500 Science > 550 Earth sciences & geology
900 History > 910 Geography & travel

ISSN:

0165-0009

Publisher:

Springer

Language:

English

Submitter:

Hélène Christine Louise Barras

Date Deposited:

08 Feb 2019 15:38

Last Modified:

21 Mar 2019 10:54

Publisher DOI:

10.1007/s10584-018-2317-9

BORIS DOI:

10.7892/boris.123109

URI:

https://boris.unibe.ch/id/eprint/123109

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