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Transferability of regionalization methods under changing climate

Yang, Xue, Magnusson, Jan, Xu, Chong-Yu
Journal of hydrology 2019 v.568 pp. 67-81
basins, climate, climate change, climate models, hydrologic models, prediction, regression analysis, runoff, uncertainty, water resources, watersheds, Norway
Regionalization methods have been extensively discussed as the solution for runoff predictions in ungauged basins (PUB), especially during the PUB decade (2003–2012). At the same time, research topics relevant to climate change appear to be an essential and attractive field for hydrologists in recent decades, because the availability and quality of water resources are strongly affected by climate change. However, it is still unknown whether regionalization methods can be used to predict hydrological impacts of climate change for ungauged catchments or how much uncertainty of future predictions may result from the use of regionalization methods. Therefore, in this study, we investigate the transferability of regionalization methods (i.e. spatial proximity and physical similarity methods, regression method) under changing climate conditions and compare the uncertainty resulting from regionalization methods with that from using climate models. The investigation is based on 108 catchments in Norway, with large variability in climate conditions and geographic characteristics. The study applies a lumped conceptual rainfall-runoff model (WASMOD) with simple structure and six model parameters. Our result shows that (a) the differences in the predictions by the regionalization methods tend to increase in the future, (b) the physical similarity method with parameter option (i.e. the model parameters from the physically-similar donor catchments are first averaged and then used to run the model for the target catchment) shows higher transferability than other methods, (c) the uncertainty contributions from climate models and regionalization methods to future runoff prediction are basin dependent, and (d) the uncertainty of future runoff prediction due to regionalization methods can be higher than that from climate models in low precipitation areas. This study provides insight to the choice of regionalization methods under changing climate conditions and the role of regionalization methods to the uncertainty contributions in future runoff predictions.