RCM rainfall for UK flood frequency estimation. II. Climate change results

  • Kay A
  • Jones R
  • Reynard N
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The first part of this two-part paper demonstrated the feasibility of the direct use of data from a high resolution (25 km) Regional Climate Model (RCM) to provide inputs for a rainfall-runoff model, in order to obtain estimates of flood frequency. This paper uses data from a climate change experiment with the same RCM (HadRM3H) to provide estimates of change in flood frequency between the 1970s and 2080s, for 15 catchments across Great Britain. This experiment is a rerun, at twice the horizontal resolution, of one of those used by the UK Climate Impacts Programme (UKCIP) in the construction of its UKCIP02 climate change scenarios for the UK. It thus allows an exploration of the implication of these scenarios using a resolution more suited to the detailed hydrological application addressed in this paper. Despite decreases in annual average rainfall in all but one catchment, eight show an increase in flood frequency at most return periods whereas two show substantial decreases. As part I of this paper showed a distinct positive correlation between errors in annual rainfall and errors in flood frequency, the fact that flood frequency can increase despite an overall decrease in rainfall implies a marked change in the distribution of rainfall, either in terms of the probability of rainfall events and/or its seasonal cycle. Decreases in flood peaks are shown for a number of the catchments in the south and east of England, despite an increase in winter mean and extreme rainfall. Increased summer and autumn soil moisture deficits are thought to be the reason for this. Other catchments, further north or west, show an increase in flood peaks, in some cases of over 50% at the 50-year return period. Care needs to be taken when interpreting these results, as they are based on a single RCM experiment (using driving data from one GCM under a single emissions scenario). Other RCM experiments may give quite different results, and ensemble runs would ideally be required to limit sample error. © 2005 Elsevier Ltd All rights reserved.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Flood frequency
  • Rainfall-runoff model
  • Regional climate models
  • Spatial generalisation

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