Articles | Volume 6, issue 3
22 May 2006
22 May 2006

The impact of the climate change on discharge of Suir River Catchment (Ireland) under different climate scenarios

S. Wang, R. McGrath, T. Semmler, C. Sweeney, and P. Nolan

Abstract. The impact of climate change on local discharge variability is investigated in the Suir River Catchment which is located in the south-east of Ireland. In this paper, the Rossby Centre Regional Atmospheric Model (RCA) is driven by different global climate data sets. For the past climate (1961–2000), the model is driven by ECMWF reanalysis (ERA-40) data as well as by the output of the general circulation models (GCM's) ECHAM4 and ECHAM5. For the future simulation (2021–2060), the model is driven by two GCM scenarios: ECHAM4_B2 and ECHAM5_A2. To investigate the influence of changed future climate on local discharge, the precipitation of the model output is used as input for the HBV hydrological model. The calibration and validation results of our ERA-40 driven present day simulation shows that the HBV model can reproduce the discharge fairly well, except the extreme discharge is systematically underestimated by about 15–20%. Altogether the application of a high resolution regional climate model in connection with a conceptual hydrological model is capable of capturing the local variability of river discharge for present-day climate using boundary values assimilated with observations such as ERA-40 data. However, using GCM data to drive RCA and HBV suggests, that there is still large uncertainty connected with the GCM formulation: For present day climate the validation of the ECHAM4 and ECHAM5 driven simulations indicates stronger discharge compared to the observations due to overprediction of precipitation, especially for the ECHAM5 driven simulation in the summer season. Whereas according to the ECHAM4_B2 scenario the discharge generally increases – most pronounced in the wet winter time, there are only slight increases in winter and considerable decreases in summer according to the ECHAM5_A2 scenario. This also leads to a different behaviour in the evolution of return levels of extreme discharge events: Strong increases according to the ECHAM4_B2 scenario and slight decreases according to the ECHAM5_A2 scenario.