Articles | Volume 6, issue 1
Research article
22 Jan 2015
Research article |  | 22 Jan 2015

Multi-model climate impact assessment and intercomparison for three large-scale river basins on three continents

T. Vetter, S. Huang, V. Aich, T. Yang, X. Wang, V. Krysanova, and F. Hattermann

Abstract. Climate change impacts on hydrological processes should be simulated for river basins using validated models and multiple climate scenarios in order to provide reliable results for stakeholders. In the last 10–15 years, climate impact assessment has been performed for many river basins worldwide using different climate scenarios and models. However, their results are hardly comparable, and do not allow one to create a full picture of impacts and uncertainties. Therefore, a systematic intercomparison of impacts is suggested, which should be done for representative regions using state-of-the-art models. Only a few such studies have been available until now with the global-scale hydrological models, and our study is intended as a step in this direction by applying the regional-scale models. The impact assessment presented here was performed for three river basins on three continents: the Rhine in Europe, the Upper Niger in Africa and the Upper Yellow in Asia. For that, climate scenarios from five general circulation models (GCMs) and three hydrological models, HBV, SWIM and VIC, were used. Four representative concentration pathways (RCPs) covering a range of emissions and land-use change projections were included. The objectives were to analyze and compare climate impacts on future river discharge and to evaluate uncertainties from different sources. The results allow one to draw some robust conclusions, but uncertainties are large and shared differently between sources in the studied basins. Robust results in terms of trend direction and slope and changes in seasonal dynamics could be found for the Rhine basin regardless of which hydrological model or forcing GCM is used. For the Niger River, scenarios from climate models are the largest uncertainty source, providing large discrepancies in precipitation, and therefore clear projections are difficult to do. For the Upper Yellow basin, both the hydrological models and climate models contribute to uncertainty in the impacts, though an increase in high flows in the future is a robust outcome ensured by all three hydrological models.

Final-revised paper