Evaluating different GCMs for predicting spatial recharge in an irrigated arid region

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Authors: Toews, MW; Allen, DM
Year: 2009
Journal: J. Hydrol. 374: 265-281   Article Link (DOI)
Title: Evaluating different GCMs for predicting spatial recharge in an irrigated arid region
Abstract: Groundwater systems in and regions will be particularly sensitive to climate change owing to the strong dependence of rates of evapotranspiration on temperature, and shifts in the precipitation regimes. Irrigation use in these arid regions is typically a large component of the water budget, and may increase due to changes in soil Moisture resulting from higher temperatures and changes in the timing of precipitation events. In this study, future predicted climate change scenarios from three global climate models (CGCM1 GHG+A1, CGCM3.1 A2, and HadCM3 A2) are used to determine the sensitivity of recharge to different climate models in an irrigated agricultural region. The arid Oliver region (annual precipitation similar to 300 mm) in the Okanagan Basin, British Columbia, is used to demonstrate the approach. Irrigation return flow, as a contribution to total diffuse recharge, is simulated by calculating the daily applied irrigation based on estimates of seasonal crop water demand and the forecasted precipitation and evaporation data. The relative contribution of irrigation return flow to groundwater recharge under current and future climate conditions is modelled. Temperature data were downscaled using Statistical Downscaling Model (SDSM), while precipitation and solar radiation changes were estimated directly from the GCM data. Shifts in climate, from present to future predicted, were applied to a stochastic weather generator, and used to force a one-dimensional hydrologic model, HELP 3.80D. Results were applied spatially, according to different soil profiles, slope and vegetation, over a 22.5 km by 8.6 km region. Changes to recharge in future time periods for each GCM result in modest increases of recharge with the peak recharge shifting from March to February. Lower recharge rates and higher potential evapotranspiration rates are similarly predicted by all three models for the summer months. All scenarios show that the potential growing season will expand between 3 and 4 weeks due to increases in temperature. However, the magnitude of the change varies considerably between models. CGCM3.1 has the largest increases of recharge rates, CGCM1 has very minor increases, and HadCM3 is relatively stable (as indicated by the near-zero changes between climate states). The significant differences between these three models indicate that prediction of future recharge is highly dependent on the model selected. The minor increase of annual recharge in future predicted climate states is due the shift of peak recharge from increased temperature. Irrigation rates dominate total recharge during the summer months in this arid area. Recharge in irrigated areas is significantly higher than natural recharge, with irrigation return flow between 25% and 58%. A comparison of recharge results for the least efficient and the most efficient irrigation systems indicates that the latter are more sensitive to choice of GCM. (C) 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
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