Assessing the influence of climate model uncertanty on EU-wide climate impact indicators

T. Lung, A. Dosio, W. Becker, C. Lavalle, L.M. Bouwer

    Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


    Despite an increasing understanding of potential climate change impacts in Europe, the associated uncertainties remain a key challenge. In many impact studies, the assessment of uncertainties is underemphasised, or is not performed quantitatively. A key source of uncertainty is the variability of climate change projections across different regional climate models (RCMs) forced by different global circulation models (GCMs). This study builds upon an indicator-based NUTS-2 level assessment that quantified potential changes for three climate-related hazards: heat stress, river flood risk, and forest fire risk, based on five GCM/RCM combinations, and non-climatic factors. First, a sensitivity analysis is performed to determine the fractional contribution of each single input factor to the spatial variance of the hazard indicators, followed by an evaluation of uncertainties in terms of spread in hazard indicator values due to inter-model climate variability, with respect to (changes in) impacts for the period 2041-70. The results show that different GCM/RCM combinations lead to substantially varying impact indicators across all three hazards. Furthermore, a strong influence of inter-model variability on the spatial patterns of uncertainties is revealed. For instance, for river flood risk, uncertainties appear to be particularly high in the Mediterranean, whereas model agreement is higher for central Europe. The findings allow for a hazard-specific identification of areas with low vs. high model agreement (and thus confidence of projected impacts) within Europe, which is of key importance for decision makers when prioritising adaptation options. © 2013 European Union.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)211-227
    Number of pages26
    JournalClimatic Change
    Issue number1-2
    Early online date26 Jul 2013
    Publication statusPublished - 2013


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