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Policy implications of UKCP09 for Devon County Council

Objectives: The Environment, Economy and Culture Overview & Scrutiny Committee requested a paper that demonstrated the difference in climate projections for Devon between UKCIP02 (the previous generation of climate projections) and UKCP09 to determine whether any immediate issues for the authority arising from the revised projections should be addressed.

UKCP09 products used: User Interface; CDFs; the Marine & Coastal projections report; Sea-level rise projections

How were UKCP09 products used?

  1. The UKCP09 User Interface was queried by climate variable to obtain CDF data. This was obtained for the future climate change in annual, winter and summer mean air temperature and precipitation for the 2050s High emission scenario, across the 10, 50 and 90% probability levels. This range was then compared to the UKCIP02 value from Climate South West's 'Warming to the Idea' report.
  1. The 5, 50 and 95th percentiles of the relative UKCP09 Projections of Sea Level Rise for UK Waters was used to compare to the UKCIP02 projections of sea level rise. An appropriate UKCP09 grid cell was chosen for the mouth of the River Exe and compared to the UKCIP02 sea level rise value for the whole of the South West Region.
  1. Storm surge projections were investigated using pre-prepared maps available in the UKCP09 Marine & coastal projections report. These were used to determine the change in the 50-year return period event from the current climate to the projected 2095 climate.

Difficulties & limitations

The UKCP09 Projections of Sea Level Rise for UK Waters only provides the 5, 50, and 95th percentiles. This did not align with the 10 and 90% probability levels used elsewhere in the paper when discussing other climate variables. However as the 10 and 90% confidence levels were referred to in the paper produced by the Environmental Policy Team as 'Very likely to be more than' and 'Very unlikely to be more than' this arguably was not a significant disparity.

Projections of trends in storm surge for UK waters are only available for the medium emissions scenario.

The request for the preparation of this paper greatly improved the Environmental Policy team's understanding of the products that are available through the User Interface and the formats in which they can be displayed. This newly acquired knowledge will aid future discussions with Devon County Council services and partner organisations when assessing the risk of future climate on business continuity.

The User Interface is a complex tool that needs the user to have a firm understanding of statistics and climate variables to have confidence in the information that can be produced. It is likely that training for officers across the full range of local authority services will be required if climate change risk assessment is to become embedded within the culture of an organisation, rather than seen as a function of an Environmental Policy or Emergency Planning unit.

How will the results be communicated to the target audience?

The results were communicated to the Environment, Economy and Culture Overview & Scrutiny Committee via a paper considered at a scheduled meeting. The challenge was translating the statistics into a format that would meet Members' needs without distorting the science.

Find out more

  • Contact details: Doug Eltham, Devon County Council.