Articles | Volume 18, issue 9
Research article
12 Sep 2014
Research article |  | 12 Sep 2014

Hydrologic impact of climate change on Murray–Hotham catchment of Western Australia: a projection of rainfall–runoff for future water resources planning

S. A. Islam, M. A. Bari, and A. H. M. F. Anwar

Abstract. Reduction of rainfall and runoff in recent years across southwest Western Australia (SWWA) has attracted attention to the climate change impact on water resources and water availability in this region. In this paper, the hydrologic impact of climate change on the Murray–Hotham catchment in SWWA has been investigated using a multi-model ensemble approach through projection of rainfall and runoff for the periods mid (2046–2065) and late (2081–2100) this century. The Land Use Change Incorporated Catchment (LUCICAT) model was used for hydrologic modelling. Model calibration was performed using (5 km) grid rainfall data from the Australian Water Availability Project (AWAP). Downscaled and bias-corrected rainfall data from 11 general circulation models (GCMs) for Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) emission scenarios A2 and B1 was used in LUCICAT model to derive rainfall and runoff scenarios for 2046–2065 (mid this century) and 2081–2100 (late this century). The results of the climate scenarios were compared with observed past (1961–1980) climate. The mean annual rainfall averaged over the catchment during recent time (1981–2000) was reduced by 2.3% with respect to the observed past (1961–1980) and the resulting runoff reduction was found to be 14%. Compared to the past, the mean annual rainfall reductions, averaged over 11 ensembles and over the period for the catchment for A2 scenario are 13.6 and 23.6% for mid and late this century respectively while the corresponding runoff reductions are 36 and 74%. For B1 scenario, the rainfall reductions were 11.9 and 11.6% for mid and late this century and the corresponding runoff reductions were 31 and 38%. Spatial distribution of rainfall and runoff changes showed that the rate of changes were higher in high rainfall areas compared to low rainfall areas. Temporal distribution of rainfall and runoff indicate that high rainfall events in the catchment reduced significantly and further reductions are projected, resulting in significant runoff reductions. A catchment scenario map has been developed by plotting decadal runoff reduction against corresponding rainfall reduction at four gauging stations for the observed and projected periods. This could be useful for planning future water resources in the catchment. Projection of rainfall and runoff made based on the GCMs varied significantly for the time periods and emission scenarios. Hence, the considerable uncertainty involved in this study though ensemble mean was used to explain the findings.