Regional Environmental Change

, Volume 16, Issue 2, pp 527–541

Linking local impacts to changes in climate: a guide to attribution

  • Gerrit Hansen
  • Dáithí Stone
  • Maximilian Auffhammer
  • Christian Huggel
  • Wolfgang Cramer
Original Article

DOI: 10.1007/s10113-015-0760-y

Cite this article as:
Hansen, G., Stone, D., Auffhammer, M. et al. Reg Environ Change (2016) 16: 527. doi:10.1007/s10113-015-0760-y


Assessing past impacts of observed climate change on natural, human and managed systems requires detailed knowledge about the effects of both climatic and other drivers of change, and their respective interaction. Resulting requirements with regard to system understanding and long-term observational data can be prohibitive for quantitative detection and attribution methods, especially in the case of human systems and in regions with poor monitoring records. To enable a structured examination of past impacts in such cases, we follow the logic of quantitative attribution assessments, however, allowing for qualitative methods and different types of evidence. We demonstrate how multiple lines of evidence can be integrated in support of attribution exercises for human and managed systems. Results show that careful analysis can allow for attribution statements without explicit end-to-end modeling of the whole climate-impact system. However, care must be taken not to overstate or generalize the results and to avoid bias when the analysis is motivated by and limited to observations considered consistent with climate change impacts.


Observed impacts of climate change Impact detection Attribution Human and managed systems Multiple drivers 

Funding information

Funder NameGrant NumberFunding Note
United States Department of Energy, Office of Science, Office of Biological and Environmental Research's Regional and Global Climate Modeling Program
  • DE-AC02-05CH11231
German Ministry for Education and Research
  • 00179906

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gerrit Hansen
    • 1
  • Dáithí Stone
    • 2
  • Maximilian Auffhammer
    • 3
    • 4
  • Christian Huggel
    • 5
  • Wolfgang Cramer
    • 6
  1. 1.Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact ResearchPotsdamGermany
  2. 2.Lawrence Berkeley National LaboratoryBerkeleyUSA
  3. 3.University of CaliforniaBerkeleyUSA
  4. 4.National Bureau of Economic ResearchCambridgeUSA
  5. 5.University of ZürichZurichSwitzerland
  6. 6.Institut Méditerranéen de Biodiversité et d’Ecologie marine et continentale, Aix Marseille Université, CNRS, IRDAvignon UniversitéAix-En-ProvenceFrance

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