Regionalised impacts of climate change on flood flows

Reynard, N.S.; Crooks, S.M.; Kay, A.L.; Prudhomme, C.. 2010 Regionalised impacts of climate change on flood flows. Defra, 113pp. (CEH Project Number: C03037, R&D Technical Report FD2020/TR)

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The primary objective of FD2020 ‘Regionalised impacts of climate change on flood flows’ was to assess the suitability of the October 2006 FCDPAG3 guidance on climate change . This guidance requires an allowance of 20% to be added to peak flows for any period between 2025 and 2115 for any location across Britain. This guidance was considered precautionary and its derivation reflected the evidence available at that time. FD2020 has been designed to increase this evidence base and the research findings suggest that regional, rather than national, guidelines for changes to peak flows due to climate change might be more appropriate. The majority of climate change impact analyses are scenario-led using the outputs from one or more Global (GCM) or Regional Climate Models (RCM). There are two main weaknesses of this approach. First, a full understanding of the inter-relationships between climate changes, catchment properties and changes in flood flows cannot be obtained. Second, no insight is gained into what might occur if something happens other than the exact projections of the climate model-based scenarios, so that when new scenarios are released, new impact studies have to be performed. This implies that any policy derived from this scenario-led evidence is equally time-limited. To overcome this issue, this project took a different approach, basing the methodology on a wide-ranging sensitivity analysis, and as such is scenario-neutral and not dependent on any one set of climate change scenarios. The approach investigates catchment response to changes in climate by imposing the same changes to a set of catchments across Britain. This allows those catchments that respond in a similar manner to be grouped together, or “regionalised”, into flood response types. To ensure the results are robust, and any subsequent policy guidance long-lasting, the framework has been designed to investigate changes in climate that encompass current knowledge of future climate change available from the GCMs of IPCC Fourth Assessment Report and RCM used to derive the suite of UKCP09 products. The method allows any catchment, including those not modelled as part of this project, to be allocated to a flood response type according to its catchment properties, and hence its vulnerability to climate change assessed. The research has also provided a range of other catchment, and scenario-specific tools, for assessing the risk of change in peak flows, and these are illustrated in this report. The research has led to a number of key findings in relation to the project objectives. First, the catchment-based analysis suggests that the current allowance can no longer be considered precautionary as a change of 20% does not encompass the majority of catchment changes in flood flows. Second, there is strong evidence that catchment response to climate change (in terms of change in flood flows) is influenced by catchment properties. This implies that a single national allowance for climate change might not be appropriate and that more “regionalised” allowances, depending on catchment type, could be developed.

Item Type: Publication - Report
Programmes: CEH Programmes pre-2009 publications > Water > WA01 Water extremes > WA01.3 Quantification of uncertainties, trends and risk of extremes
CEH Topics & Objectives 2009 - 2012 > Water
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Harding (to July 2011)
Funders/Sponsors: Defra, Environment Agency
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: This report is available from the Defra website:
Additional Keywords: Climate change, flood flows, scenario-neutral, regionalisation
NORA Subject Terms: Meteorology and Climatology
Related URLs:
Date made live: 24 Mar 2010 15:02 +0 (UTC)

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