Assessment of extreme flows and uncertainty under climate change: disentangling the uncertainty contribution of representative concentration pathways, global climate models and internal climate variability

Chao Gao, Martijn J. Booij, Yue-Ping Xu*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Abstract

Projections of streamflow, particularly of extreme flows under climate change, are essential for future water resources management and the development of adaptation strategies to floods and droughts. However, these projections are subject to uncertainties originating from different sources. In this study, we explored the possible changes in future streamflow, particularly for high and low flows, under climate change in the Qu River basin, eastern China. ANOVA (analysis of variance) was employed to quantify the contribution of different uncertainty sources from RCPs (representative concentration pathways), GCMs (global climate models) and internal climate variability, using an ensemble of 4 RCP scenarios, 9 GCMs and 1000 simulated realizations of each model–scenario combination by SDRM-MCREM (a stochastic daily rainfall model coupling a Markov chain
model with a rainfall event model). The results show that annual
mean flow and high flows are projected to increase and that low flows will probably decrease in 2041–2070 (2050s) and 2071–2100 (2080s) relative to the historical period of 1971–2000, suggesting a higher risk of floods and droughts in the future in the Qu River basin, especially for the late 21st century. Uncertainty in mean flows is mostly attributed to GCM uncertainty. For high flows and low flows, internal climate
variability and GCM uncertainty are two major uncertainty
sources for the 2050s and 2080s, while for the 2080s,
the effect of RCP uncertainty becomes more pronounced,
particularly for low flows. The findings in this study can help
water managers to become more knowledgeable about and
get a better understanding of streamflow projections and support
decision making regarding adaptations to a changing climate
under uncertainty in the Qu River basin.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3251-3269
JournalHydrology and earth system sciences
Volume24
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 23 Mar 2020

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