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Circulation pattern-based assessment of projected climate change for a catchment in Spain
- Gupta, Hoshin V., Sapriza-Azuri, Gonzalo, Jódar, Jorge, Carrera, Jesús
- Journal of hydrology 2018 v.556 pp. 944-960
- atmospheric circulation, basins, climate, global warming, greenhouse gas emissions, hydrometeorology, models, probability, rain, sea level, statistical analysis, temperature, watersheds, Atlantic Ocean, Spain
- We present an approach for evaluating catchment-scale hydro-meteorological impacts of projected climate change based on the atmospheric circulation patterns (ACPs) of a region. Our approach is motivated by the conjecture that GCMs are especially good at simulating the atmospheric circulation patterns that control moisture transport, and which can be expected to change in response to global warming. In support of this, we show (for the late 20th century) that GCMs provide much better simulations of ACPs than those of precipitation amount for the Upper Guadiana Basin in central Spain. For the same period, four of the twenty GCMs participating in the most recent (5th) IPCC Assessment provide quite accurate representations of the spatial patterns of mean sea level pressure, the frequency distribution of ACP type, the ‘number of rainy days per month’, and the daily ‘probability of rain’ (they also reproduce the trend of ‘wet day amount’, though not the actual magnitudes). A consequent analysis of projected trends and changes in hydro-climatic ACPology between the late 20th and 21st Centuries indicates that (1) actual changes appear to be occurring faster than predicted by the models, and (2) for two greenhouse gas emission scenarios (RCP 4.5 and RCP 8.5) the expected decline in precipitation volume is associated mainly with a few specific ACPs (primarily directional flows from the Atlantic Ocean and Cantabric Sea), and with decreasing probability of rain (linked to increasing temperatures) rather than wet day amount. Our approach is a potentially more insightful alternative for catchment-scale climate impacts assessments than the common approach of statistical downscaling and bias correction.