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The impacts of climate change on river flow regimes at the global scale

Arnell, N. W. ORCID: and Gosling, S. N. (2013) The impacts of climate change on river flow regimes at the global scale. Journal of Hydrology, 486. pp. 351-364. ISSN 0022-1694

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1016/j.jhydrol.2013.02.010


This paper presents an assessment of the impacts of climate change on a series of indicators of hydrological regimes across the global domain, using a global hydrological model run with climate scenarios constructed using pattern-scaling from 21 CMIP3 (Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 3) climate models. Changes are compared with natural variability, with a significant change being defined as greater than the standard deviation of the hydrological indicator in the absence of climate change. Under an SRES (Special Report on Emissions Scenarios) A1b emissions scenario, substantial proportions of the land surface (excluding Greenland and Antarctica) would experience significant changes in hydrological behaviour by 2050; under one climate model scenario (Hadley Centre HadCM3), average annual runoff increases significantly over 47% of the land surface and decreases over 36%; only 17% therefore sees no significant change. There is considerable variability between regions, depending largely on projected changes in precipitation. Uncertainty in projected river flow regimes is dominated by variation in the spatial patterns of climate change between climate models (hydrological model uncertainty is not included). There is, however, a strong degree of consistency in the overall magnitude and direction of change. More than two-thirds of climate models project a significant increase in average annual runoff across almost a quarter of the land surface, and a significant decrease over 14%, with considerably higher degrees of consistency in some regions. Most climate models project increases in runoff in Canada and high-latitude eastern Europe and Siberia, and decreases in runoff in central Europe, around the Mediterranean, the Mashriq, central America and Brasil. There is some evidence that projecte change in runoff at the regional scale is not linear with change in global average temperature change. The effects of uncertainty in the rate of future emissions is relatively small

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Interdisciplinary Research Centres (IDRCs) > Walker Institute
Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > Department of Meteorology
ID Code:31819
Uncontrolled Keywords:Climate change; Impacts; River flow regimes; CMIP3; Global hydrological model

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