Articles | Volume 16, issue 4
Research article
02 Apr 2012
Research article |  | 02 Apr 2012

Global patterns of change in discharge regimes for 2100

F. C. Sperna Weiland, L. P. H. van Beek, J. C. J. Kwadijk, and M. F. P. Bierkens

Abstract. This study makes a thorough global assessment of the effects of climate change on hydrological regimes and their accompanying uncertainties. Meteorological data from twelve GCMs (SRES scenarios A1B and control experiment 20C3M) are used to drive the global hydrological model PCR-GLOBWB. This reveals in which regions of the world changes in hydrology can be detected that have a high likelihood and are consistent amongst the ensemble of GCMs. New compared to existing studies is: (1) the comparison of spatial patterns of regime changes and (2) the quantification of notable consistent changes calculated relative to the GCM specific natural variability. The resulting consistency maps indicate in which regions the likelihood of hydrological change is large.

Projections of different GCMs diverge widely. This underscores the need of using a multi-model ensemble. Despite discrepancies amongst models, consistent results are revealed: by 2100 the GCMs project consistent decreases in discharge for southern Europe, southern Australia, parts of Africa and southwestern South-America. Discharge decreases strongly for most African rivers, the Murray and the Danube while discharge of monsoon influenced rivers slightly increases. In the Arctic regions river discharge increases and a phase-shift towards earlier peaks is observed. Results are comparable to previous global studies, with a few exceptions. Globally we calculated an ensemble mean discharge increase of more than ten percent. This increase contradicts previously estimated decreases, which is amongst others caused by the use of smaller GCM ensembles and different reference periods.