The critical role of uncertainty in projections of hydrological extremes

Hydrology and Earth System Sciences | Meresa and Romanowicz [2016]

Abstract

This paper aims to quantify the uncertainty in the projections of future hydrological extremes in the Biala Tarnowska River basin, south Poland. We follow a multi-model approach based on several climate projections obtained from the EUROCORDEX initiative, raw and downscaled realizations of catchment precipitation and temperature, and flow simulations derived using the hydrological HBV model. The projections cover the 21st century. Three sources of uncertainty were considered: one related to the hydrological model parameters uncertainty, the second related to climate projection ensemble spread and the third related to the distribution fit. The uncertainty of projected extreme indices related to hydrological model parameters was conditioned on flow observations from the reference period using the Generalised Likelihood Uncertainty Estimation approach, with separate weighting for high and low flow extremes. Flood quantiles were estimated using Generalize Extreme Value (GEV) distribution at different return periods and were based on two different lengths of the flow time series. The sensitivity analysis based on ANOVA shows that the uncertainty introduced by the HBV model parameters can be larger than the climate model variability and distribution fit uncertainty for the low-flow extremes whilst for the high-flow extremes higher uncertainty is observed from climate models than from hydrological parameter and distribution fit uncertainties. This implies that ignoring one of the three uncertainty sources may cause great risk to future hydrological extreme adaptations and water resource planning and management.

Full text can be found here.

 

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