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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) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 05 Sep 2018

Research article | 05 Sep 2018

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Hydrology and Earth System Sciences (HESS).

Future evolution and uncertainty of river flow regime change in a deglaciating river basin

Jonathan D. Mackay1,2, Nicholas E. Barrand1, David M. Hannah1, Stefan Krause1, Christopher R. Jackson2, Jez Everest3, Guðfinna Aðalgeirsdóttir4, and Andrew R. Black5 Jonathan D. Mackay et al.
  • 1School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B15 2TT, UK
  • 2British Geological Survey, Environmental Science Centre, Keyworth, Nottingham, NG12 5GG, UK
  • 3British Geological Survey, Lyell Centre, Research Avenue South, Edinburgh, EH14 4AS, UK
  • 4Institute of Earth Sciences, University of Iceland, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland
  • 5Geography and Environmental Science, University of Dundee, Dundee, DD1 4HN, UK

Abstract. The flow regime of glacier-fed rivers are sensitive to climate change due to strong climate-cryosphere-hydrosphere interactions. Previous modelling studies have foccused on projecting changes in annual and seasonal flow magnitude, but neglect other changes in river flow regime that could also have socio-economic and environmental impacts. This study employs a more comprehensive, signature-based analysis of climate change impacts on the river flow regime for the deglaciating Virkisá river basin in southern Iceland. 25 metrics (signatures) are derived from 21st century projections of river flow time-series to evaluate changes in different characteristics (magnitude, timing and variability) of river flow regime over sub-daily to decadal timescales. The projections are produced by a model chain that links numerical models of climate and glacio-hydrology. Five components of the model chain including the emission scenario, numerical climate model, downscaling procedure, snow/ice melt model and runoff-routing model are perturbed to propagate their uncertainties through to the river discharge projections. The signature-based analysis indicates that glacier-fed rivers will exhibit changes in the magnitude, timing and variability of river flows over a range of timescales in response to climate change. For most signatures there is high confidence in the sign of change, but the magnitude of change is uncertain and varies substantially across the different signatures. A decomposition of the projection uncertainties using analysis of variance (ANOVA) shows that all five perturbed model chain components contribute to projection uncertainty, but their relative contributions vary across the signatures (characteristic and timescale) of river flow. Signature-based decompositions of projection uncertainty can be used to better design impact studies to provide more robust projections.

Jonathan D. Mackay et al.
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Status: final response (author comments only)
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Jonathan D. Mackay et al.
Jonathan D. Mackay et al.
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Publications Copernicus
Short summary
We project 21st century change and uncertainty in 25 river flow regime metrics (signatures) for a deglaciating basin. The results indicate glacier-fed river flow regime is sensitive to climate change, but that uncertainties stem from incomplete understanding of future climate and glacier-hydrology processes (the latter of which is rarely considered). These findings indicate how impact studies can be better designed to provide more robust projections of river flow regime in glaciated basins.
We project 21st century change and uncertainty in 25 river flow regime metrics (signatures) for...