Assessing uncertainties in climate change impact analyses on the river flow regimes in the UK. Part 2: future climate

Prudhomme, Christel; Davies, Helen. 2009 Assessing uncertainties in climate change impact analyses on the river flow regimes in the UK. Part 2: future climate. Climatic Change, 93 (1-2). 197-222.

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The first part of this paper demonstrated the existence of bias in GCMderived precipitation series, downscaled using either a statistical technique (here the Statistical Downscaling Model) or dynamical method (here high resolution Regional Climate Model HadRM3) propagating to river flow estimated by a lumped hydrological model. This paper uses the same models and methods for a future time horizon (2080s) and analyses how significant these projected changes are compared to baseline natural variability in four British catchments. The UKCIP02 scenarios, which are widely used in the UK for climate change impact, are also considered. Results show that GCMs are the largest source of uncertainty in future flows. Uncertainties from downscaling techniques and emission scenarios are of similar magnitude, and generally smaller than GCM uncertainty. For catchments where hydrological modelling uncertainty is smaller than GCM variability for baseline flow, this uncertainty can be ignored for future projections, but might be significant otherwise. Predicted changes are not always significant compared to baseline variability, less than 50% of projections suggesting a significant change in monthly flow. Insignificant changes could occur due to climate variability alone and thus cannot be attributed to climate change, but are often ignored in climate change studies and could lead to misleading conclusions. Existing systematic bias in reproducing current climate does impact future projections and must, therefore, be considered when interpreting results. Changes in river flow variability, important for water management planning, can be easily assessed from simple resampling techniques applied to both baseline and future time horizons. Assessing future climate and its potential implication for river flows is a key challenge facing water resource planners. This two-part paper demonstrates that uncertainty due to hydrological and climate modelling must and can be accounted for to provide sound, scientificallybased advice to decision makers.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
Programmes: CEH Programmes pre-2009 publications > Water > WA01 Water extremes > WA01.3 Quantification of uncertainties, trends and risk of extremes
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Harding (to July 2011)
ISSN: 0165-0009
Additional Keywords: climate change, Uncertainty, GCM, Downscaling
NORA Subject Terms: Hydrology
Date made live: 08 Dec 2009 15:26 +0 (UTC)

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