Predicting future US water yield and ecosystem productivity by linking an ecohydrological model to WRF dynamically downscaled climate projections


Quantifying the potential impacts of climate change on water yield and ecosystem productivity (i.e., carbon balances) is essential to developing sound watershed restoration plans, and climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies. This study links an ecohydrological model (Water Supply and Stress Index, WaSSI) with WRF (Weather Research and Forecasting Model) dynamically downscaled climate projections of the HadCM3 model under the IPCC SRES A2 emission scenario. We evaluated the future (2031–2060) changes in evapotranspiration (ET), water yield (Q) and gross primary productivity (GPP) from the baseline period of 1979–2007 across the 82 773 water sheds (12 digit Hydrologic Unit Code level) in the conterminous US (CONUS), and evaluated the future annual and monthly changes of hydrology and ecosystem productivity for the 18 Water Resource Regions (WRRs) or 2-digit HUCs. Across the CONUS, the future multi-year means show increases in annual precipitation (P ) of 45 mmyr-1  (6 %), 1.8 C increase in temperature (T ), 37mmyr-1 (7 %) increase in ET, 9 mm yr -1 (3%) increase in Q, and 106 gCm􀀀2 yr􀀀-1 (9%) increase in GPP. Response to climate change was highly variable across the 82, 773 watersheds, but in general, the majority would see consistent increases in all variables evaluated. Over half of the 82 773 watersheds, mostly found in the northeast and the southern part of the southwest would have an increase in annual Q (>100mmyr-1 or 20 %). This study provides an inte20 grated method and example for comprehensive assessment of the potential impacts of climate change on watershed water balances and ecosystem productivity at high spatial and temporal resolutions. Results will be useful for policy-makers and land managers in formulating appropriate watershed-specific strategies for sustaining water and carbon sources in the face of climate change.

  • Citation: Sun, S.; Sun, G.; Cohen, E.; McNulty, S. G.; Caldwell, P.; Duan, K.; Zhang, Y. 2015. Predicting future US water yield and ecosystem productivity by linking an ecohydrological model to WRF dynamically downscaled climate projections. Hydrology and Earth System Sciences Discussions, Vol. 12(12): 44 pages.: 12703-12746.  DOI: 10.5194/hessd-12-12703-2015

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