Understanding and managing uncertainty in climate models

Recognizing, understanding and accounting for uncertainty informs robust adaptation decision-making. Conversely, risks can be underestimated when uncertainties are overlooked, undermining adaptation efforts and increasing the likelihood of maladaptation. 

Numerical modelling of the earth’s climate, achieved through what we know as climate models, is the only reliable way to determine the amount of global warming we can expect. Climate models can help us understand and measure climate trends due to human activity over decades under different conditions. While these models are incredible sources of data and instrumental in helping us prepare for future climate risks, all climate models have a level of uncertainty. 

Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta present unique challenges for detecting and communicating climate change as well as managing uncertainty. Those living across the Prairies know that variability is a part of life and have been adapting to the shifts in weather between seasons for generations—but the Prairies are also one of the fastest warming regions in Canada due to human-caused climate change. Coinciding with this challenge, climate projections of precipitation and related variables at a regional scale are the least certain for middle latitudes and continental interiors like the Canadian Prairies. In these regions, natural variability tends to obscure trends in climate variables – like temperature, relative humidity, precipitation, wind, waves and tides – meaning that it’s more difficult to determine future changes and risks.

The Uncertainty Primers are your technical guides to confronting the natural uncertainty in climate projections and incorporating this uncertainty into decision making. We offer a longer, technical guide for the advanced practitioner, a clear-language summary of uncertainty in climate modeling, and a smaller abstract to suit your needs.

We are busy working with ClimateWest and other partners to create a series of webinars to discuss these materials further and how to manage uncertainty in your work. Stay tuned for an announcement from PARC and ClimateWest for dates in winter / spring of 2023!

The Uncertainty Primer Abstract

A short primer that breaks down the types of uncertainty in climate models:

  1. model uncertainty
  2. scenario uncertainty
  3. internal variability.

The right blend of content and figures.

Uncertainty 101

A clear and accessible text which breaks down why understanding and accommodating uncertainty is necessary. Using the Canadian Prairies as the backdrop, the Primer explains how to manage uncertainty for climate adaptation planning.

The Uncertainty Primer

For the technical user / practitioner or those looking for more detailed information, the technical report offers an in-depth review of:

  1. why a primer on uncertainty in climate models is necessary
  2. the sources of uncertainty
  3. how to manage uncertainty for climate risk analysis and adaptation planning.

No fancy copy editing; just the information.