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WIREs Clim Change
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Local indicators of climate change: the potential contribution of local knowledge to climate research

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Local knowledge has been proposed as a place‐based tool to ground‐truth climate models and to narrow their geographic sensitivity. To assess the potential role of local knowledge in our quest to understand better climate change and its impacts, we first need to critically review the strengths and weaknesses of local knowledge of climate change and the potential complementarity with scientific knowledge. With this aim, we conducted a systematic, quantitative meta‐analysis of published peer‐reviewed documents reporting local indicators of climate change (including both local observations of climate change and observed impacts on the biophysical and the social systems). Overall, primary data on the topic are not abundant, the methodological development is incipient, and the geographical extent is unbalanced. On the 98 case studies documented, we recorded the mention of 746 local indicators of climate change, mostly corresponding to local observations of climate change (40%), but also to observed impacts on the physical (23%), the biological (19%), and the socioeconomic (18%) systems. Our results suggest that, even if local observations of climate change are the most frequently reported type of change, the rich and fine‐grained knowledge in relation to impacts on biophysical systems could provide more original contributions to our understanding of climate change at local scale. WIREs Clim Change 2016, 7:109–124. doi: 10.1002/wcc.374

Number of publications on local indicators of climate change, by year.
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Number of case studies conducted in each of the main climates, by year.
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Distribution map of the case studies with kernel density estimations and main climates (according to Koeppen‐Geiger classification).
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Number of publications in natural and social science journals, by year.
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Assessing Impacts of Climate Change > Evaluating Future Impacts of Climate Change
The Social Status of Climate Change Knowledge > Sociology/Anthropology of Climate Knowledge

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