Detection and attribution of anthropogenic climate change impacts
Human-influenced climate change is an observed phenomenon affecting physical and biological systems across the globe. The majority of observed impacts are related to temperature changes and are located in the northern high- and mid-latitudes. However, new evidence is emerging that demonstrates that impacts are related to precipitation changes as well as temperature, and that climate change is impacting systems and sectors beyond the Northern Hemisphere. In this paper, we highlight some of this new evidence—focusing on regions and sectors that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fourth Assessment Report (IPCC AR4) noted as under-represented—in the context of observed climate change impacts, direct and indirect drivers of change (including carbon dioxide itself), and methods of detection. We also present methods and studies attributing observed impacts to anthropogenic forcing. We argue that the expansion of methods of detection (in terms of a broader array of climate variables and data sources, inclusion of the major modes of climate variability, and incorporation of other drivers of change) is key to discerning the climate sensitivities of sectors and systems in regions where the impacts of climate change currently remain elusive. Attributing such changes to human forcing of the climate system, where possible, is important for development of effective mitigation and adaptation. Current challenges in documenting adaptation and the role of indigenous knowledge in detection and attribution are described. WIREs Clim Change 2013, 4:121–150. doi: 10.1002/wcc.209 For further resources related to this article, please visit the WIREs website.