Climatic Change

, Volume 44, Issue 3, pp 225–263

Upscaling in Global Change Research

  • L.D. Danny Harvey

DOI: 10.1023/A:1005543907412

Cite this article as:
Harvey, L.D. Climatic Change (2000) 44: 225. doi:10.1023/A:1005543907412


This paper reviews the problems of upscaling that arise, in the context of global change research, in a wide variety of disciplines in the physical and social sciences. Upscaling is taken to mean the process of extrapolating from the site-specific scale at which observations are usually made or at which theoretical relationships apply, to the smallest scale that is resolved in global-scale models. Upscaling is pervasive in global change research; although in some cases it is done implicitly. A number of conceptually distinct, fundamental causes of upscaling problems are identified and are used to classify the upscaling problems that have been encountered in different disciplines. A variety of solutions to the upscaling problems have been developed in different disciplines, and these are compared here. Improper upscaling can dramatically after model simulation results in some cases. A consideration of scaling problems across diverse disciplines reveals a number of interesting conceptual similarities among disciplines whose practitioners might otherwise not communicate with each other. Upscaling raises a number of important questions concerning predictability and reliability in global change research, which are discussed here. There is a clear need for more research into the circumstances in which simple upscaling is not appropriate, and to develop or refine techniques for upscaling.

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • L.D. Danny Harvey
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of GeographyUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada