Variability in simulated recharge using different GCMs

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Authors: Allen, DM; Cannon, AJ; Toews, MW; Scibek, J
Year: 2010
Journal: Water Resour. Res. 46   Article Link (DOI)
Title: Variability in simulated recharge using different GCMs
Abstract: Variations in the prediction of recharge is addressed by comparing recharge simulated using climate data generated using a state-of-the-art downscaling method, TreeGen, with a range of global climate models (GCMs). The study site is the transnational Abbotsford-Sumas aquifer in coastal British Columbia, Canada and Washington State, USA, and is representative of a wet coastal climate. Sixty-four recharge zones were defined based on combinations of classed soil permeability, vadose zone permeability, and unsaturated zone depth (or depth to water table) mapped in the study area. One-dimensional recharge simulations were conducted for each recharge zone using the HELP hydrologic model, which simulates percolation through a vertical column. The HELP model is driven by mean daily temperature, daily precipitation, and daily solar radiation. For the historical recharge simulations, the climate data series was generated using the LARS-WG stochastic weather generator. Historical recharge was compared to recharge simulated using climate data series derived from the TreeGen downscaling model for three future time periods: 2020s (2010-2039), 2050s (2040-2069), and 2080s (2070-2099) for each of four GCMs (CGCM3.1, ECHAM5, PCM1, and CM2.1). Recharge results are compared on an annual basis for the entire aquifer area. Both increases and decreases relative to historical recharge are simulated depending on time period and model. By the 2080s, the range of model predictions spans -10.5% to +23.2% relative to historical recharge. This variability in recharge predictions suggests that the seasonal performance of the downscaling tool is important and that a range of GCMs should be considered for water management planning.
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