Using Impact-Relevant Sensitivities to Efficiently Evaluate and Select Climate Change Scenarios

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Julie A Vano1, John B Kim2, David E Rupp1 and Philip Mote1, (1)Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, United States, (2)USFS, Pacific Northwest Research Station, Corvallis, OR, United States
We outline an efficient approach to help researchers and natural resource managers more effectively use global climate model information in their long-term planning. The approach provides an estimate of the magnitude of change of a particular impact (e.g., summertime streamflow) from a large ensemble of climate change projections prior to detailed analysis. These estimates provide both qualitative information as an end unto itself (e.g., the distribution of future changes between emissions scenarios for the specific impact) and a judicious, defensible evaluation structure that can be used to qualitatively select a sub-set of climate models for further analysis. More specifically, the evaluation identifies global climate model scenarios that both (1) span the range of possible futures for the variable/s most important to the impact under investigation, and (2) come from global climate models that adequately simulate historical climate, providing plausible results for the future climate in the region of interest. To identify how an ecosystem process responds to projected future changes, we methodically sample, using a simple sensitivity analysis, how an impact variable (e.g., streamflow magnitude, vegetation carbon) responds locally to projected regional temperature and precipitation changes. We demonstrate our technique over the Pacific Northwest, focusing on two types of impacts each in three distinct geographic settings: (a) changes in streamflow magnitudes in critical seasons for water management in the Willamette, Yakima, and Upper Columbia River basins; and (b) changes in annual vegetation carbon in the Oregon and Washington Coast Ranges, Western Cascades, and Columbia Basin ecoregions.