Articles | Volume 16, issue 9
Research article
18 Sep 2012
Research article |  | 18 Sep 2012

Changes in Köppen-Geiger climate types under a future climate for Australia: hydrological implications

R. S. Crosbie, D. W. Pollock, F. S. Mpelasoka, O. V. Barron, S. P. Charles, and M. J. Donn

Abstract. The Köppen-Geiger climate classification has been used for over a century to delineate climate types across the globe. As it was developed to mimic the distribution of vegetation, it may provide a useful surrogate for making projections of the future distribution of vegetation, and hence resultant hydrological implications, under climate change scenarios. This paper developed projections of the Köppen-Geiger climate types covering the Australian continent for a 2030 and 2050 climate relative to a 1990 historical baseline climate using 17 Global Climate Models (GCMs) and five global warming scenarios. At the highest level of classification for a +2.4 °C future climate (the upper limit projected for 2050) relative to the historical baseline, it was projected that the area of the continent covered by

– tropical climate types would increase from 8.8% to 9.1%;
– arid climate types would increase from 76.5% to 81.7%;
– temperate climate types would decrease from 14.7% to 9.2%;
– cold climate types would decrease from 0.016% to 0.001%.

Previous climate change impact studies on water resources in Australia have assumed a static vegetation distribution. If the change in projected climate types is used as a surrogate for a change in vegetation, then the major transition in climate from temperate to arid in parts of Australia under a drier future climate could cause indirect effects on water resources. A transition from annual cropping to perennial grassland would have a compounding effect on the projected reduction in recharge. In contrast, a transition from forest to grassland would have a mitigating effect on the projected reduction in runoff.