Accounting for multiple climate components when estimating climate change exposure and velocity

Methods in Ecology and Evolution
By:  and 

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Abstract

  1. The effect of anthropogenic climate change on organisms will likely be related to climate change exposure and velocity at local and regional scales. However, common methods to estimate climate change exposure and velocity ignore important components of climate that are known to affect the ecology and evolution of organisms.
  2. We develop a novel index of climate change (climate overlap) that simultaneously estimates changes in the means, variation and correlation between multiple weather variables. Specifically, we estimate the overlap between multivariate normal probability distributions representing historical and current or projected future climates. We provide methods for estimating the statistical significance of climate overlap values and methods to estimate velocity using climate overlap.
  3. We show that climates have changed significantly across 80% of the continental United States in the last 32 years and that much of this change is due to changes in the variation and correlation between weather variables (two statistics that are rarely incorporated into climate change studies). We also show that projected future temperatures are predicted to be locally novel (<1·5% overlap) across most of the global land surface and that exposure is likely to be highest in areas with low historical climate variation. Last, we show that accounting for changes in the variation and correlation between multiple weather variables can dramatically affect velocity estimates; mean velocity estimates in the continental United States were between 3·1 and 19·0 km yr−1when estimated using climate overlap compared to 1·4 km yr−1 when estimated using traditional methods.
  4. Our results suggest that accounting for changes in the means, variation and correlation between multiple weather variables can dramatically affect estimates of climate change exposure and velocity. These climate components are known to affect the ecology and evolution of organisms, but are ignored by most measures of climate change. We conclude with a set of future directions and recommend future work to determine which measures of climate change exposure and velocity are most related to biological responses to climate change.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Accounting for multiple climate components when estimating climate change exposure and velocity
Series title Methods in Ecology and Evolution
DOI 10.1111/2041-210X.12360
Volume 6
Issue 6
Year Published 2015
Language English
Publisher British Ecological Society
Contributing office(s) Coop Res Unit Leetown
Description 9 p.
First page 697
Last page 705