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Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  08 Jun 2020

08 Jun 2020

Review status
A revised version of this preprint is currently under review for the journal HESS.

Uncertainty of simulated groundwater recharge at different global warming levels: A global-scale multi-model ensemble study

Robert Reinecke1,2, Hannes Müller Schmied2,3, Tim Trautmann2, Peter Burek4, Martina Flörke5, Simon N. Gosling6, Manolis Grillakis7, Naota Hanasaki8, Aristeidis Koutroulis9, Yadu Pokhrel10, Lauren Seaby11, Wim Thiery12,13, Yoshihide Wada4,14, Satoh Yusuke4,15, and Petra Döll2,3 Robert Reinecke et al.
  • 1International Center for Water Resources and Global Change (UNESCO), Koblenz, 56002, Germany
  • 2Institute of Physical Geography, Goethe University Frankfurt, Frankfurt, 60438, Germany
  • 3Senckenberg Leibniz Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (SBiK-F) Frankfurt, Frankfurt, 60325, Germany
  • 4International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, Schlossplatz 1, 2361 Laxenburg, Austria
  • 5Facutly of Civil Engineering, Ruhr-University Bochum, Bochum, 44801 Bochum, Germany
  • 6Schoolof Geography, University of Nottingham, Nottingham NG7 2RD, UK
  • 7Institute for Mediterranean Studies, Foundation for Research and Technology Hellas, Rethymno 74100, Greece
  • 8National Institute for Environmental Studies, Tsukuba, 305-8506, Japan
  • 9School of Environmental Engineering, Technical University of Crete, Chania 73100, Greece
  • 10Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan 48824 USA
  • 11Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Telegraphenberg A31, 14473 Potsdam, Germany
  • 12Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Department of Hydrology and Hydraulic Engineering, Pleinlaan 2, 1050 Brussels, Belgium
  • 13ETH Zurich, Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science, Universitaetsstrasse 16, 8092 Zurich, Switzerland
  • 14Department of Physical Geography, Faculty of Geosciences, Utrecht University, the Netherlands
  • 15National Institute for Environmental Studies, Center for Global Environmental Research, Tsukuba, Japan

Abstract. Billions of people rely on groundwater as an accessible source for drinking water and irrigation, especially in times of drought. Its importance will likely increase with a changing climate. It is still unclear, however, how climate change will impact groundwater systems globally and thus the availability of this vital resource. This study investigates uncertainties in groundwater recharge projections using a multi-model ensemble of eight global hydrological models (GHMs) that are driven by the bias-adjusted output of four global circulation models (GCMs). Preindustrial and current groundwater recharge values are compared with recharge for different global warming (GW) levels as a result of three representative concentration pathways (RCPs). Results suggest that the uncertainty range is extensive, and projections with confidence can only be made for specific regions of the world. In some regions, reversals of groundwater recharge trends can be observed with global warming. On average, a consistent median increase of groundwater recharge in northern Europe of 19 % and a decrease of 10 % in the Amazon at 3 °C GW compared to preindustrial levels are simulated. In the Mediterranean, a 2 °C GW leads to a reduction of GWR of 38 %. Because most GHMs do not include CO2 driven vegetation processes, we investigate how, including the effect of evolving CO2 concentrations into the calculation of future groundwater recharge impacts the results. In some regions, the inclusion of these processes leads to differences in groundwater recharge changes of up to 100 mm year−1. Overall, models that include CO2 driven vegetation processes simulate less severe decreases of groundwater recharge and in some regions even increases instead of decreases. In regions where GCMs predict decreases in precipitation, and groundwater availability is most important, the model agreement among GHMs with dynamic vegetation is lowest in contrast to GHMs without, which show a high agreement.

Robert Reinecke et al.

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Robert Reinecke et al.

Robert Reinecke et al.


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Short summary
Billions of people rely on groundwater as an accessible source for drinking water and irrigation, especially in times of drought. Groundwater recharge is the primary process of regenerating our groundwater resources. This study finds that groundwater recharge will increase in northern Europe by about 19 % and decrease by 10 % in the Amazon with a 3° global warming. In the Mediterranean, already a 2° warming leads to a reduction of recharge by 38 %.
Billions of people rely on groundwater as an accessible source for drinking water and...