Probabilistic impacts of climate change on flood frequency using response surfaces I: England and Wales


The impacts of climate change on hydrology are an important focus of research around the world, but the use of large ensembles to drive impact models is not necessarily straightforward and has to be redone when new projections are released. Here, an alternative sensitivity framework approach is demonstrated, using a set of typical response surfaces alongside the probabilistic UK Climate Projections (UKCP09). These projections comprise sets of 10,000 changes in a number of variables, available for 10 river-basin regions covering England and Wales. Estimates of the potential range of impacts on 20-year return period flood peaks are presented for different types of catchment in each region. Regional average impact ranges are compared for a number of time horizons and emissions scenarios. Results show clear differences in impacts between catchments of different types and between regions. South-East England has the highest impacts with the greatest uncertainty range, while the Dee region has the lowest impacts and smallest uncertainty range. Regional differences are due to both spatial differences in projections and a differing regional balance in the number of catchments of each type. Ease of application of multiple projections is a clear advantage of this sensitivity-based approach to impact assessment, which could be extended to other regions and sectors.

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This research was supported by the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) (project number FD2648) with additional contribution from the NERC-CEH Water science programme. The UK Climate Projections data have been made available by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) under licence from the Met Office, Newcastle University, University of East Anglia and Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory. These organisations accept no responsibility for any inaccuracies or omissions in the data, nor for any loss or damage directly or indirectly caused to any person or body by reason of, or arising out of, any use of these data.

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Kay, A.L., Crooks, S.M., Davies, H.N. et al. Probabilistic impacts of climate change on flood frequency using response surfaces I: England and Wales. Reg Environ Change 14, 1215–1227 (2014).

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  • Response surfaces
  • Climate change
  • Floods
  • Adaptation
  • UKCP09