4 years ago

Estimating uncertainty and its temporal variation related to global climate models in quantifying climate change impacts on hydrology

Uncertainty estimation of climate change impacts on hydrology has received much attention in the research community. The choice of a global climate model (GCM) is usually considered as the largest contributor to the uncertainty of climate change impacts. The temporal variation of GCM uncertainty needs to be investigated for making long-term decisions to deal with climate change. Accordingly, this study investigated the temporal variation (mainly long-term) of uncertainty related to the choice of a GCM in predicting climate change impacts on hydrology by using multi-GCMs over multiple continuous future periods. Specifically, twenty CMIP5 GCMs under RCP4.5 and RCP8.5 emission scenarios were adapted to adequately represent this uncertainty envelope, fifty-one 30-year future periods moving from 2021 to 2100 with 1-year interval were produced to express the temporal variation. Future climatic and hydrological regimes over all future periods were compared to those in the reference period (1971–2000) using a set of metrics, including mean and extremes. The periodicity of climatic and hydrological changes and their uncertainty were analyzed using wavelet analysis, while the trend was analyzed using Mann-Kendall trend test and regression analysis. The results showed that both future climate change (precipitation and temperature) and hydrological response predicted by the twenty GCMs were highly uncertain, and the uncertainty increased significantly over time. For example, the change of mean annual precipitation increased from 1.4% in 2021–2050 to 6.5% in 2071–2100 for RCP4.5 in terms of the median value of multi-models, but the projected uncertainty reached 21.7% in 2021–2050 and 25.1% in 2071–2100 for RCP4.5. The uncertainty under a high emission scenario (RCP8.5) was much larger than that under a relatively low emission scenario (RCP4.5). Almost all climatic and hydrological regimes and their uncertainty did not show significant periodicity at the P = .05 significance level, but their temporal variation could be well modeled by using the fourth-order polynomial. Overall, this study further emphasized the importance of using multiple GCMs for studying climate change impacts on hydrology. Furthermore, the temporal variation of uncertainty sourced from GCMs should be given more attention.

Publisher URL: www.sciencedirect.com/science

DOI: S0022169417307588

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