Implications of the methodological choices for hydrologic portrayals of climate change over the contiguous United States: Statistically downscaled forcing data and hydrologic models

Journal of Hydrometeorology
By: , and 

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Abstract

Continental-domain assessments of climate change impacts on water resources typically rely on statistically downscaled climate model outputs to force hydrologic models at a finer spatial resolution. This study examines the effects of four statistical downscaling methods [bias-corrected constructed analog (BCCA), bias-corrected spatial disaggregation applied at daily (BCSDd) and monthly scales (BCSDm), and asynchronous regression (AR)] on retrospective hydrologic simulations using three hydrologic models with their default parameters (the Community Land Model, version 4.0; the Variable Infiltration Capacity model, version 4.1.2; and the Precipitation–Runoff Modeling System, version 3.0.4) over the contiguous United States (CONUS). Biases of hydrologic simulations forced by statistically downscaled climate data relative to the simulation with observation-based gridded data are presented. Each statistical downscaling method produces different meteorological portrayals including precipitation amount, wet-day frequency, and the energy input (i.e., shortwave radiation), and their interplay affects estimations of precipitation partitioning between evapotranspiration and runoff, extreme runoff, and hydrologic states (i.e., snow and soil moisture). The analyses show that BCCA underestimates annual precipitation by as much as −250 mm, leading to unreasonable hydrologic portrayals over the CONUS for all models. Although the other three statistical downscaling methods produce a comparable precipitation bias ranging from −10 to 8 mm across the CONUS, BCSDd severely overestimates the wet-day fraction by up to 0.25, leading to different precipitation partitioning compared to the simulations with other downscaled data. Overall, the choice of downscaling method contributes to less spread in runoff estimates (by a factor of 1.5–3) than the choice of hydrologic model with use of the default parameters if BCCA is excluded.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Implications of the methodological choices for hydrologic portrayals of climate change over the contiguous United States: Statistically downscaled forcing data and hydrologic models
Series title Journal of Hydrometeorology
DOI 10.1175/JHM-D-14-0187.1
Volume 17
Year Published 2016
Language English
Publisher American Meteorological Society
Contributing office(s) National Research Program - Central Branch
Description 24 p.
First page 75
Last page 98