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Hydrology Research Vol 41 No 3-4 pp 211–229 © IWA Publishing 2010 doi:10.2166/nh.2010.004

Distribution-based scaling to improve usability of regional climate model projections for hydrological climate change impacts studies

Wei Yang, Johan Andréasson, L. Phil Graham, Jonas Olsson, Jörgen Rosberg and Fredrik Wetterhall

Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute, SE-60176, Norrköping, Sweden E-mail: Wei.Yang@smhi.se
Department of Geography, King's College London, Strand, London, UK


As climate change could have considerable influence on hydrology and corresponding water management, appropriate climate change inputs should be used for assessing future impacts. Although the performance of regional climate models (RCMs) has improved over time, systematic model biases still constrain the direct use of RCM output for hydrological impact studies. To address this, a distribution-based scaling (DBS) approach was developed that adjusts precipitation and temperature from RCMs to better reflect observations. Statistical properties, such as daily mean, standard deviation, distribution and frequency of precipitation days, were much improved for control periods compared to direct RCM output. DBS-adjusted precipitation and temperature from two IPCC Special Report on Emissions Scenarios (SRESA1B) transient climate projections were used as inputs to the HBV hydrological model for several river basins in Sweden for the period 1961–2100. Hydrological results using DBS were compared to results with the widely-used delta change (DC) approach for impact studies. The general signal of a warmer and wetter climate was obtained using both approaches, but use of DBS identified differences between the two projections that were not seen with DC. The DBS approach is thought to better preserve the future variability produced by the RCM, improving usability for climate change impact studies.

Keywords: climate change; downscaling; hydrological impacts

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