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Using multiple climate projections for assessing hydrological response to climate change in the Thukela River Basin, South Africa
Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute, Norrköping.
Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute, Norrköping, Sweden.
University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa.
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2011 (English)In: Physics and Chemistry of the Earth, ISSN 1474-7065, E-ISSN 1873-5193, Vol. 36, no 14-15, 727-735 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This study used climate change projections from different regional approaches to assess hydrological effects on the Thukela River Basin in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Projecting impacts of future climate change onto hydrological systems can be undertaken in different ways and a variety of effects can be expected. Although simulation results from global climate models (GCMs) are typically used to project future climate, different outcomes from these projections may be obtained depending on the GCMs themselves and how they are applied, including different ways of downscaling from global to regional scales. Projections of climate change from different downscaling methods, different global climate models and different future emissions scenarios were used as input to simulations in a hydrological model to assess climate change impacts on hydrology. A total of 10 hydrological change simulations were made, resulting in a matrix of hydrological response results. This matrix included results from dynamically downscaled climate change projections from the same regional climate model (RCM) using an ensemble of three GCMs and three global emissions scenarios, and from statistically downscaled projections using results from five GCMs with the same emissions scenario. Although the matrix of results does not provide complete and consistent coverage of potential uncertainties from the different methods, some robust results were identified. In some regards, the results were in agreement and consistent for the different simulations. For others, particularly rainfall, the simulations showed divergence. For example, all of the statistically downscaled simulations showed an annual increase in precipitation and corresponding increase in river runoff, while the RCM downscaled simulations showed both increases and decreases in runoff. According to the two projections that best represent runoff for the observed climate, increase runoff would generally be expected for this basin in the future. Dealing with such variability in results is not atypical for assessing climate change impacts in Africa and practitioners are faced with how to interpret them. This work highlights the need for additional, well-coordinated regional climate downscaling for the region to further define the range of uncertainties involved.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Elsevier, 2011. Vol. 36, no 14-15, 727-735 p.
Keyword [en]
climate change, hydrological impacts, regional downscaling, Thukela river basin
National Category
Oceanography, Hydrology, Water Resources
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-73951DOI: 10.1016/j.pce.2011.07.084OAI: diva2:479240
Available from: 2012-01-17 Created: 2012-01-17 Last updated: 2013-05-14

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