Identifying uncertainties in hydrologic fluxes and seasonality from hydrologic model components for climate change impact assessments

Feng, Dongmei; Beighley, Edward

Assessing impacts of climate change on hydrologic systems is critical for developing adaptation and mitigation strategies for water resource management, risk control, and ecosystem conservation practices. Such assessments are commonly accomplished using outputs from a hydrologic model forced with future precipitation and temperature projections. The algorithms used for the hydrologic model components (e.g., runoff generation) can introduce significant uncertainties into the simulated hydrologic variables. Here, a modeling framework was developed that integrates multiple runoff generation algorithms with a routing model and associated parameter optimizations. This framework is able to identify uncertainties from both hydrologic model components and climate forcings as well as associated parameterization. Three fundamentally different runoff generation approaches, runoff coefficient method (RCM, conceptual), variable infiltration capacity (VIC, physically based, infiltration excess), and simple-TOPMODEL (STP, physically based, saturation excess), were coupled with the Hillslope River Routing model to simulate surface/subsurface runoff and streamflow. A case study conducted in Santa Barbara County, California, reveals increased surface runoff in February and March but decreased runoff in other months, a delayed (3 d, median) and shortened (6 d, median) wet season, and increased daily discharge especially for the extremes (e.g., 100-year flood discharge, inline-formulaQ100). The Bayesian model averaging analysis indicates that the probability of such an increase can be up to 85 %. For projected changes in runoff and discharge, general circulation models (GCMs) and emission scenarios are two major uncertainty sources, accounting for about half of the total uncertainty. For the changes in seasonality, GCMs and hydrologic models are two major uncertainty contributors (inline-formula∼35 %). In contrast, the contribution of hydrologic model parameters to the total uncertainty of changes in these hydrologic variables is relatively small (inline-formula<6 %), limiting the impacts of hydrologic model parameter equifinality in climate change impact analysis. This study provides useful information for practices associated with water resources, risk control, and ecosystem conservation and for studies related to hydrologic model evaluation and climate change impact analysis for the study region as well as other Mediterranean regions.

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Feng, Dongmei / Beighley, Edward: Identifying uncertainties in hydrologic fluxes and seasonality from hydrologic model components for climate change impact assessments. 2020. Copernicus Publications.

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