Articles | Volume 19, issue 9
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 19, 3891–3901, 2015
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-19-3891-2015
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 19, 3891–3901, 2015
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-19-3891-2015

Research article 16 Sep 2015

Research article | 16 Sep 2015

Climate model uncertainty versus conceptual geological uncertainty in hydrological modeling

T. O. Sonnenborg1, D. Seifert2, and J. C. Refsgaard1 T. O. Sonnenborg et al.
  • 1Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland (GEUS), Department of Hydrology, Øster Voldgade 10, 1350 Copenhagen, Denmark
  • 2ALECTIA A/S, Water & Environment, Teknikerbyen 34, 2830 Virum, Denmark

Abstract. Projections of climate change impact are associated with a cascade of uncertainties including in CO2 emission scenarios, climate models, downscaling and impact models. The relative importance of the individual uncertainty sources is expected to depend on several factors including the quantity that is projected. In the present study the impacts of climate model uncertainty and geological model uncertainty on hydraulic head, stream flow, travel time and capture zones are evaluated. Six versions of a physically based and distributed hydrological model, each containing a unique interpretation of the geological structure of the model area, are forced by 11 climate model projections. Each projection of future climate is a result of a GCM–RCM model combination (from the ENSEMBLES project) forced by the same CO2 scenario (A1B). The changes from the reference period (1991–2010) to the future period (2081–2100) in projected hydrological variables are evaluated and the effects of geological model and climate model uncertainties are quantified. The results show that uncertainty propagation is context-dependent. While the geological conceptualization is the dominating uncertainty source for projection of travel time and capture zones, the uncertainty due to the climate models is more important for groundwater hydraulic heads and stream flow.

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Short summary
The impacts of climate model uncertainty and geological model uncertainty on hydraulic head, stream flow, travel time and capture zones are evaluated. Six versions of a physically based and distributed hydrological model, each containing a unique interpretation of the geological structure of the model area, are forced by 11 climate model projections. Geology is the dominating uncertainty source for travel time and capture zones, while climate dominates for hydraulic heads and steam flow.