CR 45:71-85 (2010)  -  DOI:

Developing site scale projections of climate change in the Scottish Highlands

John Coll1,2,*, Stuart W. Gibb2, Martin F. Price3, John McClatchey2, John Harrison2

1Irish Climate Analysis and Research Units (ICARUS), Department of Geography, NUI Maynooth, Maynooth, Co Kildare, Ireland
2Environmental Research Institute, North Highland College, UHI Millennium Institute, Thurso, UK
3Centre for Mountain Studies, Perth College, UHI Millennium Institute, Perth, UK

ABSTRACT: With recent warming trends projected to amplify over the coming century, there are concerns surrounding the impacts on mountain regions. Despite these concerns, global (GCMs) and regional climate models (RCMs) fail to capture local scale-dependent controls on upland climates. A modelling framework combining climate model outputs and station data is presented and used to explore possible future changes to temperature with altitude in the Scottish Highlands. The approach was extended by modelling shifts in seasonal isotherm values associated with existing vegetation zones. To achieve this, temperature lapse rate models (LRMs) were applied to 1961–1990 baseline (BL) observed station data for selected stations in the eastern Highlands using seasonally representative lapse rate values (LRVs) derived from paired station values. Tests against 3 upland station records ranging from 663 to 1245 m indicated a credible model performance for the mean seasonal maximum (Tmax) and minimum (Tmin) BL values evaluated. Following derivation of seasonal isotherm values for the present upper limit of vegetation zones via the LRMs, selected scenario data outputs from the corresponding Hadley Centre RCM (HadRM3H) 50 × 50 km grid cells were used to project future changes to BL values via the LRMs. The findings suggest substantial shifts in the isotherm associated with each zone for the scenarios selected, with shifts in Tmin more marked than those for Tmax, although substantial uncertainties remain. Following an exploration of the results for the region, we suggest that a refinement to the approach linked to a wider modelling effort incorporating other important controlling variables for upland species could inform future management initiatives for mountain areas more generally.

KEY WORDS: Maritime uplands · Lapse rates · Modelling · Conservation policy · Uncertainty

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Cite this article as: Coll J, Gibb SW, Price MF, McClatchey J, Harrison J (2010) Developing site scale projections of climate change in the Scottish Highlands. Clim Res 45:71-85.

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