Mapping (dis)agreement in hydrologic projections

Lieke A. Melsen, Nans Addor, Naoki Mizukami, Andrew J. Newman, Paul J. J. F. Torfs, Martyn P. Clark, Remko Uijlenhoet, Adriaan J. Teuling

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Hydrologic projections are of vital socio-economic importance. However, they are also prone to uncertainty. In order to establish a meaningful range of storylines to support water managers in decision making, we need to reveal the relevant sources of uncertainty. Here, we systematically and extensively investigate uncertainty in hydrologic projections for 605 basins throughout the contiguous US. We show that in the majority of the basins, the sign of change in average annual runoff and discharge timing for the period 2070–2100 compared to 1985–2008 differs among combinations of climate models, hydrologic models, and parameters. Mapping the results revealed that different sources of uncertainty dominate in different regions. Hydrologic model induced uncertainty in the sign of change in mean runoff was related to snow processes and aridity, whereas uncertainty in both mean runoff and discharge timing induced by the climate models was related to disagreement among the models regarding the change in precipitation. Overall, disagreement on the sign of change was more widespread for the mean runoff than for the discharge timing. The results demonstrate the need to define a wide range of quantitative hydrologic storylines, including parameter, hydrologic model, and climate model forcing uncertainty, to support water resource planning.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1775-1791
Number of pages17
JournalHydrology and Earth System Sciences
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 12 Mar 2018

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