Articles | Volume 13, issue 7
Brief communication
11 Jul 2013
Brief communication |  | 11 Jul 2013

Brief Communication: Likelihood of societal preparedness for global change: trend detection

R. M. Vogel, A. Rosner, and P. H. Kirshen

Abstract. Anthropogenic influences on earth system processes are now pervasive, resulting in trends in river discharge, pollution levels, ocean levels, precipitation, temperature, wind, landslides, bird and plant populations and a myriad of other important natural hazards relating to earth system state variables. Thousands of trend detection studies have been published which report the statistical significance of observed trends. Unfortunately, such studies only concentrate on the null hypothesis of "no trend". Little or no attention is given to the power of such statistical trend tests, which would quantify the likelihood that we might ignore a trend if it really existed. The probability of missing the trend, if it exists, known as the type II error, informs us about the likelihood of whether or not society is prepared to accommodate and respond to such trends. We describe how the power or probability of detecting a trend if it exists, depends critically on our ability to develop improved multivariate deterministic and statistical methods for predicting future trends in earth system processes. Several other research and policy implications for improving our understanding of trend detection and our societal response to those trends are discussed.

Final-revised paper