Anthropogenic climate change has triggered impacts on natural and human systems world-wide, yet the formal scientific method of detection and attribution has been only insufficiently described. Detection and attribution of impacts of climate change is a fundamentally cross-disciplinary issue, involving concepts, terms, and standards spanning the varied requirements of the various disciplines. Key problems for current assessments include the limited availability of long-term observations, the limited knowledge on processes and mechanisms involved in changing environmental systems, and the widely different concepts applied in the scientific literature. In order to facilitate current and future assessments, this paper describes the current conceptual framework of the field and outlines a number of conceptual challenges. Based on this, it proposes workable cross-disciplinary definitions, concepts, and standards. The paper is specifically intended to serve as a baseline for continued development of a consistent cross-disciplinary framework that will facilitate integrated assessment of the detection and attribution of climate change impacts.