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Assessing the effects of climate change in a semiarid basin utilizing a fully distributed hydrologic model: a case study of Beaver Creek, Arizona

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The North American Monsoon (NAM) is characterized by high inter- and intra-seasonal variability, and potential climate change effects have been forecasted to increase this variability. The potential effects of climate

The North American Monsoon (NAM) is characterized by high inter- and intra-seasonal variability, and potential climate change effects have been forecasted to increase this variability. The potential effects of climate change to the hydrology of the southwestern U.S. is of interest as they could have consequences to water resources, floods, and land management. I applied a distributed watershed model, the Triangulated Irregular Network (TIN)-based Real-time Integrated Basin Simulator (tRIBS), to the Beaver Creek basin in Arizona. This sub-basin of the Verde River is representative of the regional topography, land cover, and soils distribution. As such, it can serve to illustrate the utility of distributed models for change assessment studies. Model calibration was performed utilizing radar-based NEXRAD data, and comparisons were done to two additional sources of precipitation data: ground-based stations and the North American Land Data Assimilation System (NLDAS). Comparisons focus on the spatiotemporal distributions of precipitation and stream discharge. Utilizing the calibrated model, I applied scenarios from the HadCM3 General Circulation Model (GCM) which was dynamically downscaled by the Weather Research and Forecast (WRF) model, to refine the representation of Arizona's regional climate. Two time periods were examined, a historical 1990-2000 and a future 2031-2040, to evaluate the hydrologic consequence in the form of differences and similarities between the decadal averages for temperature, precipitation, stream discharge and evapotranspiration. Results indicate an increase in mean air temperature over the basin by 1.2 ºC. The average decadal precipitation amounts increased between the two time periods by 2.4 times that of the historical period and had an increase in variability that was 3 times the historical period. For the future period, modeled streamflow discharge in the summer increased by a factor of 3. There was no significant change in the average evapotranspiration (ET). Overall trends of increase precipitation and variability for future climate scenarios have a more significant effect on the hydrologic response than temperature increases in the system during NAM in this study basin. The results from this study suggest that water management in the Beaver Creek will need to adapt to higher summer streamflow amounts.

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  • 2012

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The shift of precipitation maxima on the annual maximum series using regional climate model precipitation data

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Ten regional climate models (RCMs) and atmosphere-ocean generalized model parings from the North America Regional Climate Change Assessment Program were used to estimate the shift of extreme precipitation due to

Ten regional climate models (RCMs) and atmosphere-ocean generalized model parings from the North America Regional Climate Change Assessment Program were used to estimate the shift of extreme precipitation due to climate change using present-day and future-day climate scenarios. RCMs emulate winter storms and one-day duration events at the sub-regional level. Annual maximum series were derived for each model pairing, each modeling period; and for annual and winter seasons. The reliability ensemble average (REA) method was used to qualify each RCM annual maximum series to reproduce historical records and approximate average predictions, because there are no future records. These series determined (a) shifts in extreme precipitation frequencies and magnitudes, and (b) shifts in parameters during modeling periods. The REA method demonstrated that the winter season had lower REA factors than the annual season. For the winter season the RCM pairing of the Hadley regional Model 3 and the Geophysical Fluid-Dynamics Laboratory atmospheric-land generalized model had the lowest REA factors. However, in replicating present-day climate, the pairing of the Abdus Salam International Center for Theoretical Physics' Regional Climate Model Version 3 with the Geophysical Fluid-Dynamics Laboratory atmospheric-land generalized model was superior. Shifts of extreme precipitation in the 24-hour event were measured using precipitation magnitude for each frequency in the annual maximum series, and the difference frequency curve in the generalized extreme-value-function parameters. The average trend of all RCM pairings implied no significant shift in the winter annual maximum series, however the REA-selected models showed an increase in annual-season precipitation extremes: 0.37 inches for the 100-year return period and for the winter season suggested approximately 0.57 inches for the same return period. Shifts of extreme precipitation were estimated using predictions 70 years into the future based on RCMs. Although these models do not provide climate information for the intervening 70 year period, the models provide an assertion on the behavior of future climate. The shift in extreme precipitation may be significant in the frequency distribution function, and will vary depending on each model-pairing condition. The proposed methodology addresses the many uncertainties associated with the current methodologies dealing with extreme precipitation.

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  • 2013