Climatic Change

, Volume 92, Issue 1–2, pp 41–63 | Cite as

Comparison of uncertainty sources for climate change impacts: flood frequency in England

  • A. L. Kay
  • H. N. Davies
  • V. A. Bell
  • R. G. Jones


This paper investigates the uncertainty in the impact of climate change on flood frequency in England, through the use of continuous simulation of river flows. Six different sources of uncertainty are discussed: future greenhouse gas emissions; Global Climate Model (GCM) structure; downscaling from GCMs (including Regional Climate Model structure); hydrological model structure; hydrological model parameters and the internal variability of the climate system (sampled by applying different GCM initial conditions). These sources of uncertainty are demonstrated (separately) for two example catchments in England, by propagation through to flood frequency impact. The results suggest that uncertainty from GCM structure is by far the largest source of uncertainty. However, this is due to the extremely large increases in winter rainfall predicted by one of the five GCMs used. Other sources of uncertainty become more significant if the results from this GCM are omitted, although uncertainty from sources relating to modelling of the future climate is generally still larger than that relating to emissions or hydrological modelling. It is also shown that understanding current and future natural variability is critical in assessing the importance of climate change impacts on hydrology.


Return Period Regional Climate Model Emission Scenario Potential Evaporation High Return Period 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. L. Kay
    • 1
  • H. N. Davies
    • 1
  • V. A. Bell
    • 1
  • R. G. Jones
    • 2
  1. 1.Centre for Ecology and HydrologyWallingfordUK
  2. 2.Met Office Hadley Centre (Reading Unit)University of ReadingReadingUK

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