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South Asia River Flow Projections and Their Implications for Water Resources : Volume 12, Issue 6 (16/06/2015)

By Mathison, C.

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Book Id: WPLBN0004012380
Format Type: PDF Article :
File Size: Pages 52
Reproduction Date: 2015

Title: South Asia River Flow Projections and Their Implications for Water Resources : Volume 12, Issue 6 (16/06/2015)  
Author: Mathison, C.
Volume: Vol. 12, Issue 6
Language: English
Subject: Science, Hydrology, Earth
Collections: Periodicals: Journal and Magazine Collection, Copernicus GmbH
Publication Date:
Publisher: Copernicus Gmbh, Göttingen, Germany
Member Page: Copernicus Publications


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Wiltshire, A. J., Challinor, A. J., Falloon, P., & Mathison, C. (2015). South Asia River Flow Projections and Their Implications for Water Resources : Volume 12, Issue 6 (16/06/2015). Retrieved from

Description: Met Office Hadley Centre, FitzRoy Road, Exeter, EX1 3PB, UK. South Asia is a region with a large and rising population and a high dependance on industries sensitive to water resource such as agriculture. The climate is hugely variable with the region relying on both the Asian Summer Monsoon (ASM) and glaciers for its supply of fresh water. In recent years, changes in the ASM, fears over the rapid retreat of glaciers and the increasing demand for water resources for domestic and industrial use, have caused concern over the reliability of water resources both in the present day and future for this region. The climate of South Asia means it is one of the most irrigated agricultural regions in the world, therefore pressures on water resource affecting the availability of water for irrigation could adversely affect crop yields and therefore food production. In this paper we present the first 25 km resolution regional climate projections of river flow for the South Asia region. ERA-Interim, together with two global climate models (GCMs), which represent the present day processes, particularly the monsoon, reasonably well are downscaled using a regional climate model (RCM) for the periods; 1990–2006 for ERA-Interim and 1960–2100 for the two GCMs. The RCM river flow is routed using a river-routing model to allow analysis of present day and future river flows through comparison with river gauge observations, where available.

In this analysis we compare the river flow rate for 12 gauges selected to represent the largest river basins for this region; Ganges, Indus and Brahmaputra basins and characterize the changing conditions from east to west across the Himalayan arc. Observations of precipitation and runoff in this region have large or unknown uncertainties, are short in length or are outside the simulation period, hindering model development and validation designed to improve understanding of the water cycle for this region. In the absence of robust observations for South Asia, a downscaled ERA-Interim RCM simulation provides a benchmark for comparison against the downscaled GCMs. On the basis that these simulations are among the highest resolution climate simulations available we examine how useful they are for understanding the changes in water resources for the South Asia region. In general the downscaled GCMs capture the seasonality of the river flows, with timing of maximum river flows broadly matching the available observations and the downscaled ERA-Interim simulation. Typically the RCM simulations over-estimate the maximum river flows compared to the observations probably due to a positive rainfall bias and a lack of abstraction in the model although comparison with the downscaled ERA-Interim simulation is more mixed with only a couple of the gauges showing a bias compared with the downscaled GCM runs. The simulations suggest an increasing trend in annual mean river flows for some of the river gauges in this analysis, in some cases almost doubling by the end of the century; this trend is generally masked by the large annual variability of river flows for this region. The future seasonality of river flows does not change with the future maximum river flow rates still occuring during the ASM period, with a magnitude in some cases, greater than the present day natural variability. Increases in river flow during peak flow periods means additional water resource for irrigation, the largest usage of water in this region, but also has implications in terms of inundation risk. Low flow rates also increase which is likely to be important at times of the year when water is historically more scarce. However these projected increases in resource from rivers could be more than countered by changes in demand due to reductions in the q

South Asia river flow projections and their implications for water resources

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