Downscaled Models

Scientists forecast how ecosystems might respond to climate change on much smaller scales than the one that the climate models operate on. The models must be downscaled to look at ecosystems.


Ronald Neilson


Producer - Michael Furniss
Videography - Ben Nieves
Technical production - Jeffrey Guntle

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Forecasts of future climates for the purpose of projecting possible impacts of climate change on ecosystems are considerably more consistent than one is led to believe by the popular press. All of the coupled Atmosphere-Ocean General Circulation Models (AOGCMs) are in agreement that the planet will warm over the 21st century within a range that at its minimum will be similar to that of the middle-Holocene thermal maximum (ca. 5,000 to - 8,000 years ago) and at its maximum will warm to a level that is comparable to a full glacial-interglacial cycle. The fossil record is replete with evidence of major changes in the distributions, carbon loadings, and presumably changes in hydrology and all other ecological functions at even the minimal projected warming. The climate models are also in agreement that with increasing temperature, more water will evaporate from the oceans and more rain will fall, as the hydrologic cycle is sped up and storms will become more intense, as will droughts.

You should gain an understanding of:

What future climate scenarios look like and their uncertainties.

Two basic ecosystem responses to warming: thermal responses and moisture responses. Moisture responses are more complex due to combined thermal, precipitation and CO2 induced water use efficiency.

Multi-scale assessments and dynamic general vegetation modeling.

Interdecadal climate variability effects on fire and runoff.