Assessing the uncertainties of hydrologic model selection in climate change impact studies

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The uncertainties associated with atmosphere-ocean General Circulation Models (GCMs) and hydrologic models are assessed by means of multi-modelling and using the statistically downscaled outputs from eight GCM simulations and two emission scenarios. The statistically downscaled atmospheric forcing is used to drive four hydrologic models, three lumped and one distributed, of differing complexity: the Sacramento Soil Moisture Accounting (SAC-SMA) model, Conceptual HYdrologic MODel (HYMOD), Thornthwaite-Mather model (TM) and the Precipitation Runoff Modelling System (PRMS). The models are calibrated based on three objective functions to create more plausible models for the study. The hydrologic model simulations are then combined using the Bayesian Model Averaging (BMA) method according to the performance of each models in the observed period, and the total variance of the models. The study is conducted over the rainfall-dominated Tualatin River Basin (TRB) in Oregon, USA. This study shows that the hydrologic model uncertainty is considerably smaller than GCM uncertainty, except during the dry season, suggesting that the hydrologic model selection-combination is critical when assessing the hydrologic climate change impact. The implementation of the BMA in analysing the ensemble results is found to be useful in integrating the projected runoff estimations from different models, while enabling to assess the model structural uncertainty. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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