Title Exploring the Concept of Climate Surprises
Type Publication
Abstract This report by Michael Glantz and colleagues examines the concept of climate surprise and its implications for environmental policymaking. Although most integrated assessment models of climate change deal with average values of change, it is usually the extreme events or surprises that cause the most damage to human health and property. Exploring the Concept of Climate Surprises examines the literature of surprise in many aspects of human society: psychology, military, health care, humor, agriculture, etc. It draws together various ways to consider the concept of surprise and examines different taxonomies of surprise that have been proposed. Finally, the report discusses techniques used in the current generation of assessment models and makes suggestions as to how climate surprises might be included in future models. The report concludes that some kinds of surprises are simply unpredictable, but there are several types that could in some way be anticipated and assessed, and their negative effects forestalled.
Participants Michael Glantz
D. G. Streets
T. R. Stewart
N. Bhatti
C. M. Moore
C. H. Rosa
Start Date
Keywords Climate Change
Climate Variability
Decision Making
Education and Climate Issues
Tools, Learning, and Education
Research Themes


"Because the pathway to sustainability cannot be charted in advance, it will have to be navigated through trial and error and conscious experimentation. The urgent need is to design strategies and institutions that can better integrate incomplete knowledge with experimental action into programs of adaptive management and social learning."
NRC, Our Common Journey (1999)