Projecting flood hazard under climate change: an alternative approach to model chains
Flood hazard projections under climate change are typically derived by applying model chains consisting of the following elements: "emission scenario – global climate model – downscaling, possibly including bias correction – hydrological model – flood frequency analysis". To date, this approach yields very uncertain results, due to the difficulties of global and regional climate models to represent precipitation. The implementation of such model chains requires major efforts, and their complexity is high.
We propose for the Mekong River an alternative approach which is based on a shortened model chain: "emission scenario – global climate model – non-stationary flood frequency model". The underlying idea is to use a link between the Western Pacific monsoon and local flood characteristics: the variance of the monsoon drives a non-stationary flood frequency model, yielding a direct estimate of flood probabilities. This approach bypasses the uncertain precipitation, since the monsoon variance is derived from large-scale wind fields which are better represented by climate models. The simplicity of the monsoon–flood link allows deriving large ensembles of flood projections under climate change. We conclude that this is a worthwhile, complementary approach to the typical model chains in catchments where a substantial link between climate and floods is found.