, Volume 35, Issue 4, pp 587-600
Date: 29 Aug 2009

Regional climate change patterns identified by cluster analysis

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Abstract

Climate change caused by anthropogenic greenhouse emissions leads to impacts on a global and a regional scale. A quantitative picture of the projected changes on a regional scale can help to decide on appropriate mitigation and adaptation measures. In the past, regional climate change results have often been presented on rectangular areas. But climate is not bound to a rectangular shape and each climate variable shows a distinct pattern of change. Therefore, the regions over which the simulated climate change results are aggregated should be based on the variable(s) of interest, on current mean climate as well as on the projected future changes. A cluster analysis algorithm is used here to define regions encompassing a similar mean climate and similar projected changes. The number and the size of the regions depend on the variable(s) of interest, the local climate pattern and on the uncertainty introduced by model disagreement. The new regions defined by the cluster analysis algorithm include information about regional climatic features which can be of a rather small scale. Comparing the regions used so far for large scale regional climate change studies and the new regions it can be shown that the spacial uncertainty of the projected changes of different climate variables is reduced significantly, i.e. both the mean climate and the expected changes are more consistent within one region and therefore more representative for local impacts.