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How Historic England uses long-term projections to plan current priorities

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General view looking along the Thames flood barrier from the south
© Historic England Archive

Historic England face challenges in the long-term management of assets such as archaeological sites, parks, buildings and gardens, in an uncertain and changing climate. Hannah emphasised the wide range of weather-related hazards that impact upon these assets, from storms and flooding to overheating and drying out. She also highlighted that the most dramatic weather hazards are not necessarily the ones that pose the greatest risk.

Hannah’s comments also indicate that Historic England is still developing it’s understanding of climate risk and climate change. She notes that no one has tackled climate change before and that there is no simple road map to solving these challenges. Their strategy has therefore been to draw together the knowledge and expertise available to explore how long-term climate model projections can help Historic England prepare for the future.

The challenges of working with climate data

As Maria mentioned in the EnergyMetric interview, Hannah also notes that working with climate data is challenging. Its finite resolution – grid box size – limits its direct application to individual assets, even though the work draws upon a suite of UK climate projections that have already been considerably downscaled from raw global climate model outputs.

Despite this, perhaps because Historic England is typically thinking about a much longer timescale than the clients of Energy Metric, Hannah still finds that useful intelligence is available from these long-term climate projections. She talks about identifying ‘no regret’ decisions and responding to broad long-term trends which can be readily identified, knowing that these plans can be updated and reviewed as the climate unfolds over the decades ahead.

As you will discover in Week 2, the climate models – ‘GCMs’ – which produce the data used by Historic England have a firm grounding in basic physical principles (Step 2.5). The long-term climate projections they produce are based on simulating the response of the climate system to increasing greenhouse gases (a ‘boundary condition’ or ‘Type II’ prediction; Step 2.6).

Move on to the next Step to consolidate your understanding of this case study.

© University of Reading
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