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