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Open Access Publications from the University of California

From Climate-change Spaghetti to Climate-change Distributions for 21st-Century California

  • Author(s): Dettinger, Michael D.
  • et al.

The uncertainties associated with climate-change projections for California are unlikely to disappear any time soon, and yet important long-term decisions will be needed to accommodate those potential changes. Projection uncertainties have typically been addressed by analysis of a few scenarios, chosen based on availability or to capture the extreme cases among available projections. However, by focusing on more common projections rather than the most extreme projections (using a new resampling method), new insights into current projections emerge: (1) uncertainties associated with future greenhouse-gas emissions are comparable with the differences among climate models, so that neither source of uncertainties should be neglected or underrepresented; (2) twenty-first century temperature projections spread more, overall, than do precipitation scenarios; (3) projections of extremely wet futures for California are true outliers among current projections; and (4) current projections that are warmest tend, overall, to yield a moderately drier California, while the cooler projections yield a somewhat wetter future. The resampling approach applied in this paper also provides a natural opportunity to objectively incorporate measures of model skill and the likelihoods of various emission scenarios into future assessments.

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