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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. and Zenghelis, Dimitri A. (2018) Storylines: an alternative approach to representing uncertainty in physical aspects of climate change. Climatic Change. ISSN 0165-0009

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Identification Number: 10.1007/s10584-018-2317-9

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 selfconsistent 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 informationwith 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: Article
Official URL: https://link.springer.com/journal/10584
Additional Information: © 2018 The Authors
Divisions: Grantham Research Institute
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
Sets: Research centres and groups > Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment
Date Deposited: 03 Dec 2018 12:50
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2019 00:20
Projects: ES/K006576/1, 339390
Funders: Economic and Social Research Council, European Research Council Advanced Grant ACRC, Royal Society
URI: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/90956

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