Application of a stochastic weather generator to assess climate change impacts in a semi-arid climate: The Upper Indus Basin

N. Forsythe, H. J. Fowler, S. Blenkinsop, A. Burton, C. G. Kilsby, D. R. Archer, C. Harpham, M. Z. Hashmi

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Assessing local climate change impacts requires downscaling from Global Climate Model simulations. Here, a stochastic rainfall model (RainSim) combined with a rainfall conditioned weather generator (CRU WG) have been successfully applied in a semi-arid mountain climate, for part of the Upper Indus Basin (UIB), for point stations at a daily time-step to explore climate change impacts. Validation of the simulated time-series against observations (1961–1990) demonstrated the models’ skill in reproducing climatological means of core variables with monthly RMSE of <2.0 mm for precipitation and ⩽0.4 °C for mean temperature and daily temperature range. This level of performance is impressive given complexity of climate processes operating in this mountainous context at the boundary between monsoonal and mid-latitude (westerly) weather systems. Of equal importance the model captures well the observed interannual variability as quantified by the first and last decile of 30-year climatic periods.

Differences between a control (1961–1990) and future (2071–2100) regional climate model (RCM) time-slice experiment were then used to provide change factors which could be applied within the rainfall and weather models to produce perturbed ‘future’ weather time-series. These project year-round increases in precipitation (maximum seasonal mean change:+27%, annual mean change: +18%) with increased intensity in the wettest months (February, March, April) and year-round increases in mean temperature (annual mean +4.8 °C). Climatic constraints on the productivity of natural resource-dependent systems were also assessed using relevant indices from the European Climate Assessment (ECA) and indicate potential future risk to water resources and local agriculture.

However, the uniformity of projected temperature increases is in stark contrast to recent seasonally asymmetrical trends in observations, so an alternative scenario of extrapolated trends was also explored. We conclude that interannual variability in climate will continue to have the dominant impact on water resources management whichever trajectory is followed. This demonstrates the need for sophisticated downscaling methods which can evaluate changes in variability and sequencing of events to explore climate change impacts in this region.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1019-1034
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Hydrology
Early online date28 Jun 2014
Publication statusPublished - 19 Sep 2014


  • Weather generator
  • Indus Basin
  • Downscaling
  • Climate change

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