Some implications of time series analysis for describing climatologic conditions and for forecasting. An illustrative case: Veracruz, México



The common practice of using 30-year sub-samples of climatological data for describing past, present and future conditions has been widely applied, in many cases without considering the properties of the time series analyzed. This paper shows that this practice can lead to an inefficient use of the information contained in the data and to an inaccurate characterization of present, and especially future, climatological conditions because parameters are time and sub-sample size dependent. Furthermore, this approach can lead to the detection of spurious changes in distribution parameters. The time series analysis of observed monthly temperature in Veracruz, México, is used to illustrate the fact that these techniques permit to make a better description of the mean and variability of the series, which in turn allows (depending on the class of process) to restrain uncertainty of forecasts, and therefore provides a better estimation of present and future risk of observing values outside a given coping range. Results presented in this paper show that, although a significant trend is found in the temperatures, giving possible evidence of observed climate change in the region, there is no evidence to support changes in the variability of the series and therefore there is neither observed evidence to support that monthly temperature variability will increase (or decrease) in the future. That is, if climate change is already occurring, it has manifested itself as a change-in-the-mean of these processes and has not affected other moments of their distributions (homogeneous non-stationary processes). The Magicc-Scengen, a software useful for constructing climate change scenarios, uses 20-year sub-samples to estimate future climate variability. For comparison purposes, possible future probability density functions are constructed following two different approaches: one, using solely the Magicc-Scengen output, and another one using a combination of this information and the time series analysis. It is shown that sub-sample estimations can lead to an inaccurate estimation of the potential impacts of present climate variability and of climate change scenarios in terms of the probabilities of obtaining values outside a given coping range.


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