Potential impact of climate change on the water availability of South Saskatchewan River Basin


The potential hydrologic impact of climatic change on three sub-basins of the South Saskatchewan River Basin (SSRB) within Alberta, namely, Oldman, Bow and Red Deer River basins was investigated using the Modified Interactions Soil-Biosphere-Atmosphere (MISBA) land surface scheme of Kerkhoven and Gan (Advances in Water Resources 29:808–826 2006). The European Centre for Mid-range Weather Forecasts global re-analysis (ERA-40) climate data, Digital Elevation Model of the National Water Research Institute, land cover data and a priori soil parameters from the Ecoclimap global data set were used to drive MISBA to simulate the runoff of SSRB. Four SRES scenarios (A21, A1FI, B21 and B11) of four General Circulation Models (CCSRNIES, CGCM2, ECHAM4 and HadCM3) of IPCC were used to adjust climate data of the 1961–1990 base period (climate normal) to study the effect of climate change on SSRB over three 30-year time periods (2010–2039, 2040–2069, 2070–2099). The model results of MISBA forced under various climate change projections of the four GCMs with respect to the 1961–1990 normal show that SSRB is expected to experience a decrease in future streamflow and snow water equivalent, and an earlier onset of spring runoff despite of projected increasing trends in precipitation over the 21st century. Apparently the projected increase in evaporation loss due to a warmer climate over the 21st century will offset the projected precipitation increase, leading to an overall decreasing trend in the basin runoff of SSRB. Finally, a Gamma probability distribution function was fitted to the mean annual maximum flow and mean annual mean flow data simulated for the Oldman, Bow and Red Deer River Basins by MISBA to statistically quantify the possible range of uncertainties associated with SRES climate scenarios projected by the four GCMs selected for this study.

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The first author was funded by the Climate Change Action Fund of Natural Resources Canada. The Ecoclimap dataset was provided by Aaron Boone of Meteo France. The ERA-40 re-analysis dataset was obtained from the European Centre for Mid-range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) data server. Digital elevation models were provided by the National Water Research Institute (NWRI), Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. The SRES climate scenarios of four GCMs were obtained from the Canadian Institute for Climate Studies (CICS).

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Correspondence to Thian Yew Gan.

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Tanzeeba, S., Gan, T.Y. Potential impact of climate change on the water availability of South Saskatchewan River Basin. Climatic Change 112, 355–386 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-011-0221-7

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  • River Basin
  • Peak Flow
  • Base Period
  • Snow Water Equivalent
  • Runoff Coefficient