The signing of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Rio de Janeiro in June 1992 by 160 nations has firmly identified global climate change due to human pollution as a pressing global environmental concern. Among the responsibilities that the nations which ratify the Convention will have are the drawing up of inventories of greenhouse gas sources and sinks and the formulation of national strategies to respond to climate change through adaptive and or preventive measures. One requirement for identifying appropriate response strategies will be the undertaking of regional assessments of climate change and its associated impacts.
This paper is concerned with climate change in the East Asian region, both over the last 100 years (using instrumental data) and also for the next 100 years (using results from climate model experiments). The juxtaposing of these two analyses, historical and future, enables a better interpretation of the significance of regional climate change to be made. Instrumental temperature and precipitation data for the East Asian region are analysed and compared with the observed global-scale trends in these two variables. Although the region has undoubtedly warmed over the last century, understanding the exact causes of the complex seasonal, diurnal, and spatial dimensions of this warming is difficult. We examine the role of increasing urbanization in inducing rising temperatures and suggest that, although substantial, urban warming cannot account for all of the observed temperature change. The paper also illustrates a flexible composite-model approach to regional climate change scenario construction that avoids the need for multiple transient GCM experiments, which can explicitly incorporate the effects of intermodel uncertainty, and is flexible enough to incorporate new scientific findings and results from new GCM experiments. The scenario presented here suggests that by 2050, mean conditions are expected to be warmer than the extremely warm seasonal anomalies that occurred during the most recent decade in East Asia. Precipitation is estimated to rise over most of the region in all seasons, although the uncertainty range attached to this estimate is much wider than for temperature.