Jump to Main Content
Uncertainty of the impact of climate change on the hydrology of a nordic watershed
- Minville, Marie, Brissette, François, Leconte, Robert
- Journal of hydrology 2008 v.358 no.1-2 pp. 70-83
- watersheds, watershed hydrology, stream flow, hydrologic models, climate models, General Circulation Models, gas emissions, greenhouse gases, climate change, global warming, rain, precipitation, Quebec
- The impact of climate change on the hydrology of the Chute-du-Diable watershed (Quebec, Canada) is studied by comparing statistics on current and projected future discharge resulting from a wide range of climate change scenarios. The use of 10 equally weighted climate projections from a combination of 5 general circulation models (GCMs) and 2 greenhouse gas emission scenarios (GHGES) allows for the definition of an uncertainty envelope of future hydrologic variables. GCM data is downscaled using the change factor approach for 30-year time slices centered around years 2020, 2050 and 2080. To estimate natural variability, synthetic time series are then computed for each horizon and for each climate change scenario, using a stochastic weather generator (30 series of 30 years), and are entered into a hydrology model. Future hydrological regimes are then compared to the control period (1961-1990) using the annual and seasonal mean discharge, peak discharge and timing of peak discharge criteria. Results indicate a 1-14°C increase in seasonal temperature and a -9 to +55% change in seasonal precipitation. The largest increases in both temperature and precipitation are observed in the winter and spring seasons. The main hydrologic impact observed is a spring flood appearing 1-5 weeks earlier than usual and a modification of its amplitude from -40 to +25%. Most scenarios suggest increases in the winter, spring and fall discharge, whereas summer is expected to see a decrease in discharge. While there is still a large scatter in projected values, the uncertainty analysis projects a better view of the most probable future hydrologic behaviour of the watershed. Of all sources of uncertainty considered in this study, the largest comes from the choice of a GCM. Accordingly, all impact studies based on results from only one GCM should be interpreted with caution.