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Communication of the role of natural variability in future North American climate

An Erratum to this article was published on 27 November 2012

This article has been updated


As climate models improve, decision-makers' expectations for accurate climate predictions are growing. Natural climate variability, however, poses inherent limits to climate predictability and the related goal of adaptation guidance in many places, as illustrated here for North America. Other locations with low natural variability show a more predictable future in which anthropogenic forcing can be more readily identified, even on small scales. We call for a more focused dialogue between scientists, policymakers and the public to improve communication and avoid raising expectations for accurate regional predictions everywhere.

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Figure 1: Range of future climate outcomes.
Figure 2: Range of future climate outcomes.
Figure 3: Range of future climate outcomes.

Change history

  • 14 November 2012

    In the version of this Perspective originally published, the last label on the x axis of Fig. 3b should have read '2050'. This error has now been corrected in the HTML and PDF versions.


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The National Center for Atmospheric Research is sponsored by the National Science Foundation. Model simulations and analyses were conducted by C.D. and A.S.P.; C.D., R.K. and S.S. contributed equally to the writing.

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Correspondence to Clara Deser.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Deser, C., Knutti, R., Solomon, S. et al. Communication of the role of natural variability in future North American climate. Nature Clim Change 2, 775–779 (2012).

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