Validation and Projections of Climate Characteristics in the Saginaw Bay watershed, MI, for hydrologic modeling applications

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Fundamental differences in the nature of climate and hydrologic models make coupling of future climate projections to models of watershed hydrology challenging. This study uses the NCAR Weather Research and Forecast model (WRF) to dynamically downscale climate simulations over the Saginaw Bay Watershed, MI and prepare the results for input into semi-distributed hydrologic models. One realization of the bias-corrected NCAR CESM1 model's RCP 8.5 climate scenario is dynamically downscaled at a spatial resolution of 3 km by 3 km for the end of the twenty-first century and validated based on a downscaled run for the end of the twentieth century in comparison to ASOS and NWS COOP stations. Bias-correction is conducted using Quantile Mapping to correct daily maximum and minimum temperature, precipitation, and relative humidity for use in future hydrologic model experiments. In the Saginaw Bay Watershed the end of the twenty-first century is projected to see maximum and minimum average daily temperatures warming by 5.7 and 6.3°C respectively. Precipitation characteristics over the watershed show an increase in mean annual precipitation (average of +14.3 mm over the watershed), mainly due to increases in precipitation intensity (average of +0.3 mm per precipitation day) despite a decrease in frequency of −10.7 days per year. The projected changes have substantial implications for watershed processes including flood prediction, erosion, mobilization of non-point source and legacy contaminants, and evapotranspirative demand, among others. We present these results in the context of usefulness of the downscaled and bias corrected data for semi-distributed hydrologic modeling.
Original languageEnglish
JournalFrontiers in Water
Issue numberdoi: 10.3389/frwa.2021.779811
StatePublished - Dec 2021


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