Evaluation of a statistical downscaling procedure for the estimation of climate change impacts on droughts
- Department of Civil engineering, University of Thessaly, 38334 Volos, Greece
Abstract. Despite uncertainties in future climates, there is considerable evidence that there will be substantial impacts on the environment and human interests. Climate change will affect the hydrology of a region through changes in the timing, amount, and form of precipitation, evaporation and transpiration rates, and soil moisture, which in turn affect also the drought characteristics in a region. Droughts are long-term phenomena affecting large regions causing significant damages both in human lives and economic losses. The most widely used approach in regional climate impact studies is to combine the output of the General Circulation Models (GCMs) with an impact model. The outputs of Global Circulation Model CGCMa2 were applied for two socioeconomic scenarios, namely, SRES A2 and SRES B2 for the assessment of climate change impact on droughts. In this study, a statistical downscaling method has been applied for monthly precipitation. The methodology is based on multiple regression of GCM predictant variables with observed precipitation developed in an earlier paper (Loukas et al., 2008) and the application of a stochastic timeseries model for precipitation residuals simulation (white noise). The methodology was developed for historical period (1960–1990) and validated against observed monthly precipitation for period 1990–2002 in Lake Karla watershed, Thessaly, Greece. The validation indicated the accuracy of the methodology and the uncertainties propagated by the downscaling procedure in the estimation of a meteorological drought index the Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI) at multiple timescales. Subsequently, monthly precipitation and SPI were estimated for two future periods 2020–2050 and 2070–2100. The results of the present study indicate the accuracy, reliability and uncertainty of the statistical downscaling method for the assessment of climate change on hydrological, agricultural and water resources droughts. Results show that climate change will have a major impact on droughts but the uncertainty introduced is quite large and is increasing as SPI timescale increases. Larger timescales of SPI, which, are used to monitor hydrological and water resources droughts, are more sensitive to climate change than smaller timescales, which, are used to monitor meteorological and agricultural droughts. Future drought predictions should be handled with caution and their uncertainty should always be evaluated as results demonstrate.