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  Stochastic information in the assessment of climate change

Kleinen, T. (2005). Stochastic information in the assessment of climate change. PhD Thesis, Universität Potsdam, Ph.-D. Thesis. - Potsdam.

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Kleinen, Thomas1, Author              
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Free keywords: Integrierte Bewertung; Klimawandel Climate Change; Flooding probability; Integrated Assessment; stochastic differential equation; Anthropogene Klimaänderung; Stochastische Differentialgleichung; Thermohaline Zi; Überflutung
 Abstract: Stochastic information, to be understood as "information gained by the application of stochastic methods", is proposed as a tool in the assessment of changes in climate. This thesis aims at demonstrating that stochastic information can improve the consideration and reduction of uncertainty in the assessment of changes in climate. The thesis consists of three parts. In part one, an indicator is developed that allows the determination of the proximity to a critical threshold. In part two, the tolerable windows approach (TWA) is extended to a probabilistic TWA. In part three, an integrated assessment of changes in flooding probability due to climate change is conducted within the TWA. The thermohaline circulation (THC) is a circulation system in the North Atlantic, where the circulation may break down in a saddle-node bifurcation under the influence of climate change. Due to uncertainty in ocean models, it is currently very difficult to determine the distance of the THC to the bifurcation point. We propose a new indicator to determine the system's proximity to the bifurcation point by considering the THC as a stochastic system and using the information contained in the fluctuations of the circulation around the mean state. As the system is moved closer to the bifurcation point, the power spectrum of the overturning becomes "redder", i.e. more energy is contained in the low frequencies. Since the spectral changes are a generic property of the saddle-node bifurcation, the method is not limited to the THC, but it could also be applicable to other systems, e.g. transitions in ecosystems. In part two, a probabilistic extension to the tolerable windows approach (TWA) is developed. In the TWA, the aim is to determine the complete set of emission strategies that are compatible with so-called guardrails. Guardrails are limits to impacts of climate change or to climate change itself. Therefore, the TWA determines the "maneuvering space" humanity has, if certain impacts of climate change are to be avoided. Due to uncertainty it is not possible to definitely exclude the impacts of climate change considered, but there will always be a certain probability of violating a guardrail. Therefore the TWA is extended to a probabilistic TWA that is able to consider "probabilistic uncertainty", i.e. uncertainty that can be expressed as a probability distribution or uncertainty that arises through natural variability. As a first application, temperature guardrails are imposed, and the dependence of emission reduction strategies on probability distributions for climate sensitivities is investigated. The analysis suggests that it will be difficult to observe a temperature guardrail of 2°C with high probabilities of actually meeting the target. In part three, an integrated assessment of changes in flooding probability due to climate change is conducted. A simple hydrological model is presented, as well as a downscaling scheme that allows the reconstruction of the spatio-temporal natural variability of temperature and precipitation. These are used to determine a probabilistic climate impact response function (CIRF), a function that allows the assessment of changes in probability of certain flood events under conditions of a changed climate. The assessment of changes in flooding probability is conducted in 83 major river basins. Not all floods can be considered: Events that either happen very fast, or affect only a very small area can not be considered, but large-scale flooding due to strong longer-lasting precipitation events can be considered. Finally, the probabilistic CIRFs obtained are used to determine emission corridors, where the guardrail is a limit to the fraction of world population that is affected by a predefined shift in probability of the 50-year flood event. This latter analysis has two main results. The uncertainty about regional changes in climate is still very high, and even small amounts of further climate change may lead to large changes in flooding probability in some river systems.

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Language(s): eng - English
 Dates: 2005-06-162005-07-182005-07-18
 Publication Status: Published in print
 Pages: -
 Publishing info: Ph.-D. Thesis. - Potsdam : Universität Potsdam
 Table of Contents: -
 Rev. Type: -
 Identifiers: URN: urn:nbn:de:kobv:517-opus-5382
 Degree: PhD

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