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