Climatic Change

, Volume 80, Issue 3–4, pp 337–367 | Cite as

Using regional climate model data to simulate historical and future river flows in northwest England



Daily rainfall and temperature data were extracted from the multi-ensemble HadRM3H regional climate model (RCM) integrations for control (1960–1990) and future (2070–2100) time-slices. This dynamically downscaled output was bias-corrected on observed mean statistics and used as input to hydrological models calibrated for eight catchments which are critical water resources in northwest England. Simulated daily flow distributions matched observed from Q95 to Q5, suggesting that RCM data can be used with some confidence to examine future changes in flow regime. Under the SRES A2 (UKCIP02 Medium-High) scenario, annual runoff is projected to increase slightly at high elevation catchments, but reduce by ~16% at lower elevations. Impacts on monthly flow distribution are significant, with summer reductions of 40–80% of 1961–90 mean flow, and winter increases of up to 20%. This changing seasonality has a large impact on low flows, with Q95 projected to decrease in magnitude by 40–80% in summer months, with serious consequences for water abstractions and river ecology. In contrast, high flows (> Q5) are projected to increase in magnitude by up to 25%, particularly at high elevation catchments, providing an increased risk of flooding during winter months. These changes will have implications for management of water resources and ecologically important areas under the EU Water Framework Directive.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Arnell NW (1992) Impacts of climate change on river flow regimes in the UK. J Inst Wat Env Manag 6:432–442Google Scholar
  2. Arnell NW (2003) Relative effects of multi-decadal climatic variability and changes in the mean and variability of climate due to global warming: future streamflows in Britain. J Hydrol 270:195–213CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Arnell NW, Reynard NS (1996) The effects of climate change due to global warming on river flows in Great Britain. J Hydrol 183:397–424CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Blaney HF, Criddle WD (1950) Determining water requirements in irrigated areas from climatological and irrigation data, USDA, Soil Conservation Service, TP-96Google Scholar
  5. Brandsma T, Buishand TA (1997) Rainfall Generator for the Rhine basin: single site generation of weather variables by nearest-neighbour resampling, KNMI-publication 186-I, KNMI, De Bilt, p47Google Scholar
  6. Burlando P, Rosso R (2002a) Effects of transient climate change on basin hydrology. 1. Precipitation scenarios for the Arno River, central Italy. Hydrol Process 16:1151–1175CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Calver A, Lamb R, Morris SE (1999) Generalized river flood frequency estimation for Great Britain using continuous rainfall-runoff modelling: pilot study results. P I Civil Eng-Water 136:225–234Google Scholar
  8. Conway D, Jones PD (1998) The use of weather types and air flow indices for GCM downscaling. J Hydrol 213:348–361CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Corte-Real J, Qian BD, Xu H (1998) Regional climate change in Portugal: precipitation variability associated with large-scale atmospheric circulation. Int J Climatol 18:619–635CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cubasch U, von Storch H, Waszkewitz J, Zorita E (1996) Estimates of climate change in Southern Europe derived from dynamical climate model output. Climate Res 7:129–149Google Scholar
  11. Cubasch U, Meehl GA, Boer GJ, Stouffer RJ, Dix M, Noda A, Senior CA., Raper SCB, Yap KS (2001) Projections of future climate change. In: Houghton JT, Ding Y, Griggs DJ, Noguer M, van der Linden P, Dai X, Maskell K, Johnson CI (eds) Climate change 2001: The scientific basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Third Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge University Press, pp 586–582Google Scholar
  12. Duan Q, Sorooshian S, Gupta VK (1992) Effective and efficient global optimization for conceptual rainfall-runoff. Water Resour Res 28:1015–1031CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Durman CF, Gregory JM, Hassell DC, Jones RG, Murphy JM (2001) A comparison of extreme European daily precipitation simulated by a global and a regional climate model for present and future climates. Q J R Meteor Soc 127:1005–1015CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Ekström M, Fowler HJ, Kilsby CG, Jones PD (2005) New estimates of future changes in extreme rainfall across the UK using regional climate model integrations. 2. Future estimates and use in impact studies. J Hydrol 300:234–251CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Ekström M, Jones PD, Fowler HJ, Lenderink G, Buishand A, Conway D (2006a) Regional climate model data used within the SWURVE project. 1: projected changes in seasonal patterns and estimation of PET. Hydrol Earth Syst Sci, in pressGoogle Scholar
  16. Ekström M, Hingray B, Mezghani A, Jones PD (2006b) Regional climate model data used within the SWURVE project 2: addressing uncertainty in regional climate model data for five European case study areas. Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci, in pressGoogle Scholar
  17. Folland CK, Karl TR, Christy JR, Clarke RA, Gruza GV, Jouzel J, Mann ME, Oerlemans J, Salinger MJ, Wang S-W (2001) Observed climate variability and change. In: Houghton JT, Ding Y, Griggs DJ, Noguer M, van der Linden P, Dai X, Maskell K, Johnson CI (eds) Climate change 2001: The scientific basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Third Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Cambridge University Press, pp 99–181Google Scholar
  18. Fowler HJ, Kilsby CG (2003) A regional frequency analysis of United Kingdom extreme rainfall from 1961 to 2000. Int J Climatol 23:1313–1334CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Fowler HJ, Kilsby CG (2004) Future increases in UK water resource drought projected by a regional climate model. In Proceedings of the BHS International Conference on Hydrology: Science & Practice for the 21st Century, Volume 1, London, pp 15–21Google Scholar
  20. Fowler HJ, Ekström M, Kilsby CG, Jones PD (2005) New estimates of future changes in extreme rainfall across the UK using regional climate model integrations. 1: assessment of control climate. J Hydrol 300:212–233CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Fowler HJ, Kilsby CG, Stunell J (2006) Modelling the impacts of projected future climate change on water resources in northwest England. Hydrol Earth Syst Sci, in pressGoogle Scholar
  22. Franchini M (1996) Use of a genetic algorithm combined with a local search method for the automatic calibration of rainfall-runoff models. Hydrolog Sci J 41:21–40CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Giorgi F, Hewitson B, Christensen J, Fu C, Jones R, Hulme M, Mearns L, Von Storch H, Whetton P (2001a) Regional climate information — evaluation and projections. In: Houghton JT, Ding Y, Griggs DJ, Noguer M, van der Linden P, Dai X, Maskell K, Johnson CI (eds) Climate change 2001: The scientific basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Third Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Cambridge University Press, pp 583–638Google Scholar
  24. Giorgi F, Whetton P, Jones R, Christensen J, Mearns L, Hewitson L, Von Storch H, Francisco R, Jack C (2001b) Emerging patterns of simulated regional climatic changes for the 21st century due to anthropogenic forcing. Geophys Res Lett 28:3317–3320CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Goodess CM, Palutikof JP (1998) Development of daily rainfall scenarios for southeast Spain using a circulation-type approach to downscaling. Int J Climatol 18:1051–1083CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Gordon C, Cooper C, Senior CA, Banks H, Gregory JM, Johns TC, Mitchell JFB, Wood RA (2000) The simulation of SST, sea ice extents and ocean heat transports in a version of the Hadley centre coupled model without flux adjustments. Clim Dynam 16:147–168CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Hay LE, Clark MP (2003) Use of statistically and dynamically downscaled atmospheric model output for hydrologic simulations in three mountainous basins in the western United States. J Hydrol 282:56–75CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Hay LE, Clark MP, Wilby RL, Gutowski WJ, Leavesley GH, Pan Z, Arritt RW, Takle ES (2002) Use of regional climate model output for hydrologic simulations. J Hydrometeorol 3:571–590CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Hennesey KJ, Gregory JM, Mitchell JFB (1997) Change in daily precipitation under enhanced greenhouse conditions. Clim Dynam 13:667–680CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Hulme M, Jenkins GJ (1998) Climate change scenarios for the UK: scientific report. UKCIP Technical Report No. 1, Climatic Research Unit, Norwich, p 80Google Scholar
  31. Hulme M, Jenkins GJ, Lu X, Turnpenny JR, Mitchell TD, Jones RG, Lowe J, Murphy JM, Hassell D, Boorman P, McDonald R, Hill S (2002) Climate Change Scenarios for the United Kingdom: The UKCIP02 Scientific Report, Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK, p 120Google Scholar
  32. IH (1999) Flood Estimation Handbook, 5 volumes, CEH Wallingford (formerly the Institute of Hydrology), Wallingford, UKGoogle Scholar
  33. IPCC (2000) Technical Summary. In: Nakicenovic N, Swart B (eds) Special Report on Emissions Scenarios, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 570Google Scholar
  34. Johns TC, Gregory JM, Ingram WJ, Johnson CE, Jones A, Lowe JA, Mitchell JFB, Roberts DL, Sexton DMH, Stevenson DS, Tett SFB, Woodage MJ (2003) Anthropogenic climate change for 1860 to 2100 simulated with the HadCM3 model under updated emissions scenarios. Clim Dynam 20:583–612Google Scholar
  35. Kilsby CG, Cowpertwait PSP, O’Connell PE, Jones PD (1998) Predicting rainfall statistics in England and Wales using atmospheric circulation variables. Int J Climatol 18:523–539CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Lamb R (2001) To what extent can the October/November 200 floods be attributed to climate change, DEFRA FD2304 Final Report, p 40Google Scholar
  37. Lettenmaier DP, Wood AW, Palmer RN, Wood EF, Stakhiv EZ (1999) Water resources implications of global warming: a US regional perspective. Climatic Change 43:537–579CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Manley G (1974) Central England temperatures: monthly means 1659 to 1973. Q J R Meteor Soc 100:389–405CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Marsh TJ (1996) The 1995 drought—a signal of climatic instability? P I Civil Eng-Water 118:189–195Google Scholar
  40. Marsh TJ (2001) The 2000/2001 floods in the UK — a brief overview. Weather 56:343–345Google Scholar
  41. McGuffie K, Henderson-Sellers A, Holbrook N, Kothavala Z, Balachova O, Hoekstra J (1999) Assessing simulations of daily temperature and precipitation variability with global climate models for present and enhanced greenhouse climates. Int J Climatol 19:1–26CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Mearns LO, Bogardi I, Giorgi F, Matyasovzsky I, Palecki M (1999) Comparison of climate change scenarios generated from regional climate model experiments and statistical downscaling. J Geophys Res 104:6603–6621CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Nash JE, Sutcliffe JV (1970) River flow forecasting through conceptual models. Part I - A discussion of principles. J Hydrol 10:282–290CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Parker DE, Legg TP, Folland CK (1992) A new daily central England temperature series, 1772–1991. Int J Climatol 12:317–342Google Scholar
  45. Pilling C, Jones JAA (1999) High resolution climate change scenarios: implications for British runoff. Hydrol. Process 13:2877–2895CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Pilling CG, Jones JAA (2002) The impact of future climate change on seasonal discharge, hydrological processes and extreme flows in the Upper Wye experimental catchment, mid-Wales. Hydrol Process 16:1201–1213CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Pope VD, Gallani ML, Rowntree PR, Stratton RA (2000) The impact of new physical parameterizations in the Hadley centre climate model — HadAM3. Clim Dynam 16:123–146CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Prudhomme C, Jakob D, Svensson C (2003) Uncertainty and climate change impact on the flood regime of small UK catchments. J Hydrol 277:1–23CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Prudhomme C, Reynard N, Crooks S (2002) Downscaling of global climate models for flood frequency analysis: where are we now? Hydrol Process 16:1137–1150CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Takle ES, Gutowski WJ Jr, Arritt RW, Pan Z, Anderson CJ, Silva R, Caya D, Chen S-C, Christensen JH, Hong S-Y, Juang H-MH, Katzfey JJ, Lapenta WM, Laprise R, Lopez P, McGregor J, Roads JO (1999) Project to intercompare regional climate simulations (PIRCS): description and initial results. J Geophys Res 104:19443–19461CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Todini E (1996) The ARNO rainfall-runoff model. J Hydrol 175:339–382CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Walsh CL, Kilsby CG (2006) Potential impacts of climate change on Atlantic salmon: case study in the Eden catchment, Cumbria, UK. Hydrol. Earth. Syst. Sci., in pressGoogle Scholar
  53. Wigley TML, Raper SCB (2001) Interpretation of high projections for global-mean warming. Science 293:451–454CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Wilby RL (1997) Non-stationarity in daily precipitation series: implications for GCM down-scaling using atmospheric circulation indices. Int J Climatol 17:439–454CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Wilby RL, Wigley TML (1997) Downscaling general circulation model output: a review of methods and limitations. Prog Phys Geog 21:530–548Google Scholar
  56. Wilby RL, Hay LE, Gutowski WJ, Arritt RW, Takle ES, Pan Z, Leavesley GH, Clark MP (2000) Hydrological responses to dynamically and statistically downscaled climate model output. Geophys Res Lett 27:1199–1202CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Wood AW, Lettenmaier DP, Palmer RN (1997) Assessing climate change implications for water resources planning. Climatic Change 37:203–228CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Wood AW, Leung LR, Sridhar V, Lettenmaier DP (2004) Hydrologic implications of dynamical and statistical approaches to downscaling climate model outputs. Climatic Change 62:189–216CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Water Resource Systems Research Laboratory, School of Civil Engineering and GeosciencesUniversity of Newcastle upon TyneNewcastleUK

Personalised recommendations