Uncertainty in Climate Projections

There are many sources of uncertainty in future climate projections. For many variables, Alaska lacks the detailed base information needed for more accurate and helpful climate change forecasts.

A brief list of uncertainties

Uncertainty in future economic and social choices and behavior, which will affect the amount of greenhouse gases that will be emitted, and thus the amount of excess heat trapped in the atmosphere.

Variation in Global Climate Models that simulate the movement of excess heat through Earth’s atmosphere and oceans. Scientifically unresolved pieces of the system—such as climate sensitivity to greenhouse gases and how aerosols and clouds interact—vary from model to model, causing uncertainty.

Variability in weather and short-term climate that can temporarily hide long-term climate trends.

Planning for an uncertain future

Scenario planning (allowing for more than one possible future) allows for greater flexibility in the face of high uncertainty.

The UAF Scenarios Network for Alaska + Arctic Planning (SNAP) specializes in creating scenarios. SNAP scenarios are not forecasts based on probabilities. Instead, they use data to ask “What if ...?” and consider multiple divergent, challenging, and possible future events. Combining these scenarios with stakeholder knowledge fosters informed dialogue and planning.