Statistical downscaling of river flows
Tisseuil, C., Vrac, M., Lek, S. and Wade, A. J. (2010) Statistical downscaling of river flows. Journal of Hydrology, 385 (1-4). pp. 279-291. ISSN 0022-1694
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To link to this item DOI: 10.1016/j.jhydrol.2010.02.030
An extensive statistical ‘downscaling’ study is done to relate large-scale climate information from a general circulation model (GCM) to local-scale river flows in SW France for 51 gauging stations ranging from nival (snow-dominated) to pluvial (rainfall-dominated) river-systems. This study helps to select the appropriate statistical method at a given spatial and temporal scale to downscale hydrology for future climate change impact assessment of hydrological resources. The four proposed statistical downscaling models use large-scale predictors (derived from climate model outputs or reanalysis data) that characterize precipitation and evaporation processes in the hydrological cycle to estimate summary flow statistics. The four statistical models used are generalized linear (GLM) and additive (GAM) models, aggregated boosted trees (ABT) and multi-layer perceptron neural networks (ANN). These four models were each applied at two different spatial scales, namely at that of a single flow-gauging station (local downscaling) and that of a group of flow-gauging stations having the same hydrological behaviour (regional downscaling). For each statistical model and each spatial resolution, three temporal resolutions were considered, namely the daily mean flows, the summary statistics of fortnightly flows and a daily ‘integrated approach’. The results show that flow sensitivity to atmospheric factors is significantly different between nival and pluvial hydrological systems which are mainly influenced, respectively, by shortwave solar radiations and atmospheric temperature. The non-linear models (i.e. GAM, ABT and ANN) performed better than the linear GLM when simulating fortnightly flow percentiles. The aggregated boosted trees method showed higher and less variable R2 values to downscale the hydrological variability in both nival and pluvial regimes. Based on GCM cnrm-cm3 and scenarios A2 and A1B, future relative changes of fortnightly median flows were projected based on the regional downscaling approach. The results suggest a global decrease of flow in both pluvial and nival regimes, especially in spring, summer and autumn, whatever the considered scenario. The discussion considers the performance of each statistical method for downscaling flow at different spatial and temporal scales as well as the relationship between atmospheric processes and flow variability.