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Distinguishing trends and shifts from memory in climate data

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

Published
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>2018
<mark>Journal</mark>Journal of Climate
Issue number23
Volume31
Number of pages25
Pages (from-to)9519-9543
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date8/11/18
<mark>Original language</mark>English

Abstract

The detection of climate change and its attribution to the corresponding underlying processes is challenging because signals such as trends and shifts are superposed on variability arising from the memory within the climate system. Statistical methods used to characterize change in time series must be flexible enough to distinguish these components. Here we propose an approach tailored to distinguish these different modes of change by fitting a series of models and selecting the most suitable one according to an information criterion. The models involve combinations of a constant mean or a trend superposed to a background of white noise with or without autocorrelation to characterize the memory, and are able to detect multiple changepoints in each model configuration. Through a simulation study on synthetic time series, the approach is shown to be effective in distinguishing abrupt changes from trends and memory by identifying the true number and timing of abrupt changes when they are present. Furthermore, the proposed method is better performing than two commonly used approaches for the detection of abrupt changes in climate time series. Using this approach, the so-called hiatus in recent global mean surface warming fails to be detected as a shift in the rate of temperature rise but is instead consistent with steady increase since the 1960s/1970s. Our method also supports the hypothesis that the Pacific decadal oscillation behaves as a short-memory process rather than forced mean shifts as previously suggested. These examples demonstrate the usefulness of the proposed approach for change detection and for avoiding the most pervasive types of mistake in the detection of climate change. © 2018 American Meteorological Society.

Bibliographic note

Beaulieu, C. and R. Killick, 2018: Distinguishing Trends and Shifts from Memory in Climate Data. J. Climate, 31, 9519–9543, https://doi.org/10.1175/JCLI-D-17-0863.1 © Copyright 2018 American Meteorological Society (AMS). Permission to use figures, tables, and brief excerpts from this work in scientific and educational works is hereby granted provided that the source is acknowledged. Any use of material in this work that is determined to be “fair use” under Section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Act or that satisfies the conditions specified in Section 108 of the U.S. Copyright Act (17 USC §108) does not require the AMS’s permission. Republication, systematic reproduction, posting in electronic form, such as on a website or in a searchable database, or other uses of this material, except as exempted by the above statement, requires written permission or a license from the AMS. All AMS journals and monograph publications are registered with the Copyright Clearance Center (http://www.copyright.com). Questions about permission to use materials for which AMS holds the copyright can also be directed to permissions@ametsoc.org. Additional details are provided in the AMS Copyright Policy statement, available on the AMS website (http://www.ametsoc.org/CopyrightInformation).