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Multimodel assessment of climate change-induced hydrologic impacts for a Mediterranean catchment

This work addresses the impact of climate change on the hydrology of a catchment in the Mediterranean, a region that is highly susceptible to variations in rainfall and other components of the water budget. The assessment is based on a comparison of responses obtained from five hydrologic models implemented for the Rio Mannu catchment in southern Sardinia (Italy). The examined models – CATchment HYdrology (CATHY), Soil andWater Assessment Tool (SWAT), TOPographic Kinematic APproximation and Integration (TOPKAPI), TIN-based Real time Integrated Basin Simulator (tRIBS), and WAter balance SImulation Model (WASIM) – are all distributed hydrologic models but differ
greatly in their representation of terrain features and physical processes and in their numerical complexity. After calibration and validation, the models were forced with biascorrected, downscaled outputs of four combinations of global and regional climate models in a reference (1971–2000) and future (2041–2070) period under a single emission scenario. Climate forcing variations and the structure of the hydrologic
models influence the different components of the catchment response. Three water availability response variables – discharge, soil water content, and actual evapotranspiration – are analyzed. Simulation results from all five hydrologic models show for the future period decreasing mean annual streamflow and soil water content at 1m depth. Actual evapotranspiration in the future will diminish according to four of the five models due to drier soil conditions. Despite their significant differences, the five hydrologic models responded similarly to the reduced precipitation and increased temperatures predicted by the climate models, and lend strong support to a future scenario of increased water shortages for this region of the Mediterranean basin. The multimodel framework adopted for this study allows estimation of the agreement between the five hydrologic models and between the four climate models. Pairwise comparison of the climate and hydrologic models is shown for the reference and future periods using a recently proposed metric that scales the Pearson correlation coefficient with a factor that accounts for systematic differences between datasets. The results from this analysis reflect the key structural differences between the hydrologic models, such as a representation of both vertical and lateral subsurface flow (CATHY, TOPKAPI, and tRIBS) and a detailed treatment of vegetation processes (SWAT and WASIM).

Perra, E.; Piras, M.; Deidda, R.; Paniconi, C.; Mascaro, G.; Vivoni, E.R.; Cau, P.; Marras, P.A.; Ludwig, R.; Meyer, S. 2018. Multimodal assessment of climate change-induced hydrologic impacts for a Mediterranean catchment. Hydrology and Earth System Science 22, 4125-4143.

DOI: 10.5194/hess-22-4125-2018