Projected hydroclimate changes over Andean basins in central Chile from downscaled CMIP5 models under the low and high emission scenarios

Abstract

This study examines the projections of hydroclimatic regimes and extremes over Andean basins in central Chile (∼ 30–40° S) under a low and high emission scenarios (RCP2.6 and RCP8.5, respectively). A gridded daily precipitation and temperature dataset based on observations is used to drive and validate the VIC macro-scale hydrological model in the region of interest. Historical and future simulations from 19 climate models participating in CMIP5 have been adjusted with the observational dataset and then used to make hydrological projections. By the end of the century, there is a large difference between the scenarios, with projected warming of ∼ + 1.2 °C (RCP2.6), ∼ + 3.5 °C (RCP8.5) and drying of ∼ − 3% (RCP2.6), ∼ − 30% (RCP8.5). Following the strong drying and warming projected in this region under the RCP8.5 scenario, the VIC model simulates decreases in annual runoff of about 40% by the end of the century. Such strong regional effect of climate change may have large implications for the water resources of this region. Even under the low emission scenario, the Andes snowpack is projected to decrease by 35–45% by mid-century. In more snowmelt-dominated areas, the projected hydrological changes under RCP8.5 go together with more loss in the snowpack (75–85%) and a temporal shift in the center timing of runoff to earlier dates (up to 5 weeks by the end of the century). The severity and frequency of extreme hydroclimatic events are also projected to increase in the future. The occurrence of extended droughts, such as the recently experienced mega-drought (2010–2015), increases from one to up to five events per 100 years under RCP8.5. Concurrently, probability density function of 3-day peak runoff indicates an increase in the frequency of flood events. The estimated return periods of 3-day peak runoff events depict more drastic changes and increase in the flood risk as higher recurrence intervals are considered by mid-century under RCP2.6 and RCP8.5, and by the end of the century under RCP8.5.

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Acknowledgements

We acknowledge the World Climate Research Programme Working Group on Coupled Modelling, which is responsible for CMIP, and we thank the climate modeling groups (listed in Table S1 in the supplementary materials) for producing and making available their model output. For CMIP, the U.S. Department of Energy Program for Climate Model Diagnosis and Intercomparison provides coordinating support and led development of software infrastructure in partnership with the Global Organization for Earth System Science Portals. DB acknowledges support from FONDECYT grant 3150036. MR acknowledges support from NC120066 and FONDECYT grant 1171773. JPB acknowledges support from FONDECYT grant 3150492. In particular, we are thankful to Justin Sheffield (Princeton University) and Edwin P. Maurer (Santa Clara University) for providing the VIC model parameter files and gridded meteorological fields.

Funding

This work was funded by FONDAP-CONICYT 15110009.

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Correspondence to Deniz Bozkurt.

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This paper is a substantially revised version of Climate change impacts on hydroclimatic regimes and extremes over Andean basins in central Chile https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2016-690

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Bozkurt, D., Rojas, M., Boisier, J.P. et al. Projected hydroclimate changes over Andean basins in central Chile from downscaled CMIP5 models under the low and high emission scenarios. Climatic Change 150, 131–147 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-018-2246-7

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