Mahat, V., and A. Anderson, 2013: “Impacts of climate and catastrophic forest changes on streamflow and water balance in a mountainous headwater stream in Southern Alberta.” Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, v. 17, pp. 4941-4956, doi: 10.5194/hess-17-4941-2013.
Rivers in Southern Alberta are vulnerable to climate change because much of the river water originates as snow in the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains. Changes in likelihood of forest disturbance (wildfire, insects, logging, etc.) may also have impacts that are compounded by climate change. This study evaluates the impacts of climate and forest changes on streamflow in the upper parts of the Oldman River in Southern Alberta using a conceptual hydrological model, HBV-EC (Hydrologiska Byråns attenbalansavdelning, Environment Canada), in combination with a stochastic weather generator (LARS-WG) driven by GCM (global climate model) output climate data. Three climate change scenarios (A1B, A2 and B1) are selected to cover the range of possible future climate conditions (2020s, 2050s, and 2080s). The GCM projected less than a 10% increase in precipitation in winter and a similar amount of precipitation decrease in summer. These changes in projected precipitation resulted in up to a 200% (9.3 mm) increase in winter streamflow in February and up to a 63% (31.2 mm) decrease in summer flow in June. Flow also decreased in July and August, when irrigation is important; these reduced river flows during this season could impact agriculture production. The amplification in the streamflow is mostly driven by the projected increase in temperature that is predicted to melt winter snow earlier, resulting in lower water availability during the summer. Uncertainty analysis was completed using a guided GLUE (generalized likelihood uncertainty estimation) approach to obtain the best 100 parameter sets and associated ranges of streamflows. The impacts of uncertainty in streamflows were higher in spring and summer than in winter and fall. Forest change compounded the climate change impact by increasing the winter flow; however, it did not reduce the summer flow.
Ward, P.J., B. Jongman, F.S. Weiland, A. Bouwman, R. van Beek, M.F.P. Bierkens, W. Ligtvoet, and H.C. Winsemius, 2013: “Assessing flood risk at the global scale: Model setup, results, and sensitivity.” Environmental Research Letters, v. 8, paper no. 044019, doi: 10.1088/1748-9326/8/4/044019.
Globally, economic losses from flooding exceeded $19 billion in 2012, and are rising rapidly. Hence, there is an increasing need for global-scale flood risk assessments, also within the context of integrated global assessments. We have developed and validated a model cascade for producing global flood risk maps, based on numerous flood return-periods. Validation results indicate that the model simulates interannual fluctuations in flood impacts well. The cascade involves: hydrological and hydraulic modelling; extreme value statistics; inundation modelling; flood impact modelling; and estimating annual expected impacts. The initial results estimate global impacts for several indicators, for example annual expected exposed population (169 million); and annual expected exposed GDP ($1383 billion). These results are relatively insensitive to the extreme value distribution employed to estimate low frequency flood volumes. However, they are extremely sensitive to the assumed flood protection standard; developing a database of such standards should be a research priority. Also, results are sensitive to the use of two different climate forcing datasets. The impact model can easily accommodate new, user-defined, impact indicators. We envisage several applications, for example: identifying risk hotspots; calculating macro-scale risk for the insurance industry and large companies; and assessing potential benefits (and costs) of adaptation measures.
Hansen, J., P. Kharecha, M. Sato, V. Masson-Delmotte, F. Ackerman, D.J. Beerling, P.J. Hearty, O. Hoegh-Guldberg, S.-L. Hsu, C. Parmesan, J. Rockstrom, E. J. Rohling, J. Sachs, P. Smith, K. Steffen, L. Van Susteren, K. von Schuckmann, and J.C. Zachos, 2013: “Assessing ‘dangerous climate change’: Required reduction of carbon emissions to protect young people, future generations and nature.” PLOS One, doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0081648.
We assess climate impacts of global warming using ongoing observations and paleoclimate data. We use Earth’s measured energy imbalance, paleoclimate data, and simple representations of the global carbon cycle and temperature to define emission reductions needed to stabilize climate and avoid potentially disastrous impacts on today’s young people, future generations, and nature. A cumulative industrial-era limit of ~500 GtC fossil fuel emissions and 100 GtC storage in the biosphere and soil would keep climate close to the Holocene range to which humanity and other species are adapted. Cumulative emissions of ~1000 GtC, sometimes associated with 2°C global warming, would spur “slow” feedbacks and eventual warming of 3–4°C with disastrous consequences. Rapid emissions reduction is required to restore Earth’s energy balance and avoid ocean heat uptake that would practically guarantee irreversible effects. Continuation of high fossil fuel emissions, given current knowledge of the consequences, would be an act of extraordinary witting intergenerational injustice. Responsible policymaking requires a rising price on carbon emissions that would preclude emissions from most remaining coal and unconventional fossil fuels and phase down emissions from conventional fossil fuels.
Marvel, K., and C. Bonfils, 2013: “Identifying external influences on global precipitation.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, v. 110, pp. 19,301-19,306, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1314382110.
Changes in global (ocean and land) precipitation are among the most important and least well-understood consequences of climate change. Increasing greenhouse gas concentrations are thought to affect the zonal-mean distribution of precipitation through two basic mechanisms. First, increasing temperatures will lead to an intensification of the hydrological cycle (“thermodynamic” changes). Second, changes in atmospheric circulation patterns will lead to poleward displacement of the storm tracks and subtropical dry zones and to a widening of the tropical belt (“dynamic” changes). We demonstrate that both these changes are occurring simultaneously in global precipitation, that this behavior cannot be explained by internal variability alone, and that external influences are responsible for the observed precipitation changes. Whereas existing model experiments are not of sufficient length to differentiate between natural and anthropogenic forcing terms at the 95% confidence level, we present evidence that the observed trends result from human activities.
Barella-Ortiz, A., J. Polcher, A. Tuzet, and K. Laval, 2013: “Potential evaporation estimation through an unstressed surface-energy balance and its sensitivity to climate change.” Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, v. 17, pp. 4625-4639, doi: 10.5194/hess-17-4625-2013.
Potential evaporation (ETp) is a basic input for many hydrological and agronomic models, as well as a key variable in most actual evaporation estimations. It has been approached through several diffusive and energy balance methods, out of which the Penman–Monteith equation is recommended as the standard one. In order to deal with the diffusive approach, ETp must be estimated at a sub-diurnal frequency, as currently done in land surface models (LSMs). This study presents an improved method, developed in the ORCHIDEE LSM, which consists of estimating ETp through an unstressed surface-energy balance (USEB method). The results confirm the quality of the estimation which is currently implemented in the model (Milly, 1992). The ETp underlying the reference evaporation proposed by the Food and Agriculture Organization, FAO, (computed at a daily time step) has also been analysed and compared.
First, a comparison for a reference period under current climate conditions shows that USEB and FAO’s ETp estimations differ, especially in arid areas. However, they produce similar values when the FAO’s assumption of neutral stability conditions is relaxed, by replacing FAO’s aerodynamic resistance by that of the model’s. Furthermore, if the vapour pressure deficit (VPD) estimated for the FAO’s equation, is substituted by ORCHIDEE’s VPD or its humidity gradient, the agreement between the daily mean estimates of ETp is further improved.
In a second step, ETp’s sensitivity to climate change is assessed by comparing trends in these formulations for the 21st century. It is found that the USEB method shows a higher sensitivity than the FAO’s. Both VPD and the model’s humidity gradient, as well as the aerodynamic resistance have been identified as key parameters in governing ETp trends. Finally, the sensitivity study is extended to two empirical approximations based on net radiation and mass transfer (Priestley–Taylor and Rohwer, respectively). The sensitivity of these ETp estimates is compared to the one provided by USEB to test if simplified equations are able to reproduce the impact of climate change on ETp.
Downard, R., and J. Endter-Wada, 2013: “Keeping wetlands wet in the western United States: Adaptations to drought in agriculture-dominated human-natural systems.” Journal of Environmental Management, v. 131, pp. 394-406, doi: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2013.10.008.
Water is critical to protecting wetlands in arid regions, especially in agriculture-dominated watersheds. This comparative case study analyzes three federal wildlife refuges in the Bear River Basin of the U.S. West where refuge managers secured water supplies by adapting to their local environmental context and their refuge’s relationship to agriculture in being either irrigation-dependent, reservoir-adjacent or diked-delta wetlands. We found that each refuge’s position confers different opportunities for securing a water supply and entails unique management challenges linked to agricultural water uses. Acquiring contextually-appropriate water rights portfolios was important for protecting these arid region wetlands and was accomplished through various strategies. Once acquired, water is managed to buffer wetlands against fluctuations caused by a dynamic climate and agricultural demands, especially during droughts. Management plans are responsive to needs of neighboring water users and values of the public at large. Such context-specific adaptations will be critical as the West faces climate change and population growth that threaten wetlands and agricultural systems to which they are linked.
Gunasekara, N.K., S. Kazama, D. Yamazaki, and T. Oki, 2013: “The effects of country-level population policy for enhancing adaptation to climate change.” Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, v. 17, pp. 4429-4440, doi: 10.5194/hess-17-4429-2013.
The effectiveness of population policy in reducing the combined impacts of population change and climate change on water resources is explored. One no-policy scenario and two scenarios with population policy assumptions are employed in combination with water availability under the SRES scenarios A1b, B1 and A2 for the impact analysis. The population data used are from the World Bank. The river discharges per grid of horizontal resolution 0.5° are obtained from the Total Runoff Integrating Pathways (TRIP) of the University of Tokyo, Japan. Unlike the population scenarios utilized in the SRES emission scenarios and the newest representative concentration pathways, the scenarios employed in this research are based, even after 2050, on country-level rather than regional-level growth assumptions.
Our analysis implies that the heterogeneous pattern of population changes across the world is the dominant driver of water stress, irrespective of future greenhouse gas emissions, with highest impacts occurring in the already water-stressed low latitudes. In 2100, Africa, Middle East and parts of Asia are under extreme water stress under all scenarios. The sensitivity analysis reveals that a small reduction in populations over the region could relieve a large number of people from high water stress, while a further increase in population from the assumed levels (SC1) might not increase the number of people under high water stress considerably. Most of the population increase towards 2100 occurs in the already water-stressed lower latitudes. Therefore, population reduction policies are recommended for this region as a method of adaptation to the future water stress conditions. Population reduction policies will facilitate more control over their future development pathways, even if these countries were not able to contribute significantly to greenhouse gas (GHG) emission cuts due to economic constraints. However, for the European region, the population living in water-stressed regions is almost 20 times lower than that in the lower latitudes.
For countries with high population momentum, the population policy scenario with fertility-reduction assumptions gained a maximum of 6.1 times the water availability in Niger and 5.3 times that in Uganda compared with the no-policy scenario. Most of these countries are in sub-Saharan Africa. These countries represent 24.5% of the global population in the no-policy scenario, and the scenario with fertility-reduction assumptions reduces it to 8.7% by 2100. This scenario is also effective in reducing the area under extreme water stress in these countries. However, the policy scenario with assumptions of population stabilization at the replacement fertility rate increases the water stress in high-latitude countries. Nevertheless, the impact is low due to the high per capita water availability in the region. This research is expected to widen the understanding of the combined impacts of climate change in the future and of the strategies needed to enhance the space for adaptation.
Dass, P., C. Müller, V. Brovkin, and W. Cramer, 2013: “Can bioenergy cropping compensate high carbon emissions from large-scale deforestation of high latitudes?” Earth System Dynamics, v. 4, pp. 409-424, doi: 10.5194/esd-4-409-2013.
Numerous studies have concluded that deforestation of the high latitudes result in a global cooling. This is mainly because of the increased albedo of deforested land which dominates over other biogeophysical and biogeochemical mechanisms in the energy balance. This dominance, however, may be due to an underestimation of the biogeochemical response, as carbon emissions are typically at or below the lower end of estimates. Here, we use the dynamic global vegetation model LPJmL for a better estimate of the carbon cycle under such large-scale deforestation. These studies are purely theoretical in order to understand the role of vegetation in the energy balance and the earth system. They must not be mistaken as possible mitigation options, because of the devastating effects on pristine ecosystems. For realistic assumptions of land suitability, the total emissions computed in this study are higher than that of previous studies assessing the effects of boreal deforestation. The warming due to biogeochemical effects ranges from 0.12 to 0.32 °C, depending on the climate sensitivity. Using LPJmL to assess the mitigation potential of bioenergy plantations in the suitable areas of the deforested region, we find that the global biophysical bioenergy potential is 68.1 ± 5.6 EJ yr−1 of primary energy at the end of the 21st century in the most plausible scenario. The avoided combustion of fossil fuels over the time frame of this experiment would lead to further cooling. However, since the carbon debt caused by the cumulative emissions is not repaid by the end of the 21st century, the global temperatures would increase by 0.04 to 0.11 °C. The carbon dynamics in the high latitudes especially with respect to permafrost dynamics and long-term carbon losses, require additional attention in the role for the Earth’s carbon and energy budget.
Voisin, N., L. Liu, M. Hejazi, T. Tesfa, H. Li, M. Huang, Y. Liu, and L.R. Leung, 2013: “One-way coupling of an integrated assessment model and a water resources model: Evaluation and implications of future changes over the US Midwest.” Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, v. 17, pp. 4555-4575, doi: 10.5194/hess-17-4555-2013.
An integrated model is being developed to advance our understanding of the interactions between human activities, terrestrial system and water cycle, and to evaluate how system interactions will be affected by a changing climate at the regional scale. As a first step towards that goal, a global integrated assessment model, which includes a water-demand model driven by socioeconomics at regional and global scales, is coupled in a one-way fashion with a land surface hydrology–routing–water resources management model. To reconcile the scale differences between the models, a spatial and temporal disaggregation approach is developed to downscale the annual regional water demand simulations into a daily time step and subbasin representation. The model demonstrates reasonable ability to represent the historical flow regulation and water supply over the US Midwest (Missouri, Upper Mississippi, and Ohio river basins). Implications for future flow regulation, water supply, and supply deficit are investigated using climate change projections with the B1 and A2 emission scenarios, which affect both natural flow and water demand. Although natural flow is projected to increase under climate change in both the B1 and A2 scenarios, there is larger uncertainty in the changes of the regulated flow. Over the Ohio and Upper Mississippi river basins, changes in flow regulation are driven by the change in natural flow due to the limited storage capacity. However, both changes in flow and demand have effects on the Missouri River Basin summer regulated flow. Changes in demand are driven by socioeconomic factors, energy and food demands, global markets and prices with rainfed crop demand handled directly by the land surface modeling component. Even though most of the changes in supply deficit (unmet demand) and the actual supply (met demand) are driven primarily by the change in natural flow over the entire region, the integrated framework shows that supply deficit over the Missouri River Basin sees an increasing sensitivity to changes in demand in future periods. It further shows that the supply deficit is six times as sensitive as the actual supply to changes in flow and demand. A spatial analysis of the supply deficit demonstrates vulnerabilities of urban areas located along mainstream with limited storage.
Deems, J.S., T.H. Painter, J.J. Barsugli, J. Belnap, and B. Udall, 2013: “Combined impacts of current and future dust deposition and regional warming on Colorado River Basin snow dynamics and hydrology.” Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, v. 17, pp. 4401-4413, doi: 10.5194/hess-17-4401-2013.
The Colorado River provides water to 40 million people in seven western states and two countries and to 5.5 million irrigated acres. The river has long been overallocated. Climate models project runoff losses of 5–20% from the basin by mid-21st century due to human-induced climate change. Recent work has shown that decreased snow albedo from anthropogenic dust loading to the CO mountains shortens the duration of snow cover by several weeks relative to conditions prior to western expansion of the US in the mid-1800s, and advances peak runoff at Lees Ferry, Arizona, by an average of 3 weeks. Increases in evapotranspiration from earlier exposure of soils and germination of plants have been estimated to decrease annual runoff by more than 1.0 billion cubic meters, or ~5% of the annual average. This prior work was based on observed dust loadings during 2005–2008; however, 2009 and 2010 saw unprecedented levels of dust loading on snowpacks in the Upper Colorado River Basin (UCRB), being on the order of 5 times the 2005–2008 loading. Building on our prior work, we developed a new snow albedo decay parameterization based on observations in 2009/10 to mimic the radiative forcing of extreme dust deposition. We convolve low, moderate, and extreme dust/snow albedos with both historic climate forcing and two future climate scenarios via a delta method perturbation of historic records. Compared to moderate dust, extreme dust absorbs 2× to 4× the solar radiation, and shifts peak snowmelt an additional 3 weeks earlier to a total of 6 weeks earlier than pre-disturbance. The extreme dust scenario reduces annual flow volume an additional 1% (6% compared to pre-disturbance), a smaller difference than from low to moderate dust scenarios due to melt season shifting into a season of lower evaporative demand. The sensitivity of flow timing to dust radiative forcing of snow albedo is maintained under future climate scenarios, but the sensitivity of flow volume reductions decreases with increased climate forcing. These results have implications for water management and suggest that dust abatement efforts could be an important component of any climate adaptation strategies in the UCRB.