Articles | Volume 16, issue 5
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 16, 1287–1303, 2012
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 16, 1287–1303, 2012

Research article 07 May 2012

Research article | 07 May 2012

High-resolution projections of surface water availability for Tasmania, Australia

J. C. Bennett3,2,1,*, F. L. N. Ling3, D. A. Post4, M. R. Grose2, S. P. Corney2, B. Graham5, G. K. Holz2, J. J. Katzfey6, and N. L. Bindoff6,2,1 J. C. Bennett et al.
  • 1Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS), University of Tasmania, Sandy Bay, Tasmania, Australia
  • 2Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre (ACE CRC), University of Tasmania, Sandy Bay, Tasmania, Australia
  • 3Entura, Cambridge Park, Tasmania, Australia
  • 4Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) Land and Water (CLW), Black Mountain, Australian Capital Territory, Australia
  • 5Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment, New Town, Tasmania, Australia
  • 6Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research, CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research (CMAR), Aspendale, Victoria, Australia
  • *now at: CLW, Highett, Victoria, Australia

Abstract. Changes to streamflows caused by climate change may have major impacts on the management of water for hydro-electricity generation and agriculture in Tasmania, Australia. We describe changes to Tasmanian surface water availability from 1961–1990 to 2070–2099 using high-resolution simulations. Six fine-scale (∼10 km2) simulations of daily rainfall and potential evapotranspiration are generated with the CSIRO Conformal Cubic Atmospheric Model (CCAM), a variable-resolution regional climate model (RCM). These variables are bias-corrected with quantile mapping and used as direct inputs to the hydrological models AWBM, IHACRES, Sacramento, SIMHYD and SMAR-G to project streamflows.

The performance of the hydrological models is assessed against 86 streamflow gauges across Tasmania. The SIMHYD model is the least biased (median bias = −3%) while IHACRES has the largest bias (median bias = −22%). We find the hydrological models that best simulate observed streamflows produce similar streamflow projections.

There is much greater variation in projections between RCM simulations than between hydrological models. Marked decreases of up to 30% are projected for annual runoff in central Tasmania, while runoff is generally projected to increase in the east. Daily streamflow variability is projected to increase for most of Tasmania, consistent with increases in rainfall intensity. Inter-annual variability of streamflows is projected to increase across most of Tasmania.

This is the first major Australian study to use high-resolution bias-corrected rainfall and potential evapotranspiration projections as direct inputs to hydrological models. Our study shows that these simulations are capable of producing realistic streamflows, allowing for increased confidence in assessing future changes to surface water variability.