Earth System Science Data, Volume 12, Issue 1

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Copernicus GmbH
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High-resolution meteorological forcing data for hydrological modelling and climate change impact analysis in the Mackenzie River Basin
Zilefac Elvis Asong | Mohamed Elshamy | Daniel Princz | H. S. Wheater | John W. Pomeroy | Alain Pietroniro | Alex J. Cannon

Abstract. Cold region hydrology is very sensitive to the impacts of climate warming. Impacts of warming over recent decades in western Canada include glacier retreat, permafrost thaw, and changing patterns of precipitation, with an increased proportion of winter precipitation falling as rainfall and shorter durations of snow cover, as well as consequent changes in flow regimes. Future warming is expected to continue along these lines. Physically realistic and sophisticated hydrological models driven by reliable climate forcing can provide the capability to assess hydrological responses to climate change. However, the provision of reliable forcing data remains problematic, particularly in data-sparse regions. Hydrological processes in cold regions involve complex phase changes and so are very sensitive to small biases in the driving meteorology, particularly in temperature and precipitation, including precipitation phase. Cold regions often have sparse surface observations, particularly at high elevations that generate a large amount of runoff. This paper aims to provide an improved set of forcing data for large-scale hydrological models for climate change impact assessment. The best available gridded data in Canada are from the high-resolution forecasts of the Global Environmental Multiscale (GEM) atmospheric model and outputs of the Canadian Precipitation Analysis (CaPA), but these datasets have a short historical record. The EU WATCH ERA-Interim reanalysis (WFDEI) has a longer historical record but has often been found to be biased relative to observations over Canada. The aim of this study, therefore, is to blend the strengths of both datasets (GEM-CaPA and WFDEI) to produce a less-biased long-record product (WFDEI-GEM-CaPA) for hydrological modelling and climate change impact assessment over the Mackenzie River Basin. First, a multivariate generalization of the quantile mapping technique was implemented to bias-correct WFDEI against GEM-CaPA at 3 h ×0.125∘ resolution during the 2005–2016 overlap period, followed by a hindcast of WFDEI-GEM-CaPA from 1979. The derived WFDEI-GEM-CaPA data are validated against station observations as a preliminary step to assess their added value. This product is then used to bias-correct climate projections from the Canadian Centre for Climate Modelling and Analysis Canadian Regional Climate Model (CanRCM4) between 1950 and 2100 under RCP8.5, and an analysis of the datasets shows that the biases in the original WFDEI product have been removed and the climate change signals in CanRCM4 are preserved. The resulting bias-corrected datasets are a consistent set of historical and climate projection data suitable for large-scale modelling and future climate scenario analysis. The final historical product (WFDEI-GEM-CaPA, 1979–2016) is freely available at the Federated Research Data Repository at (Asong et al., 2018), while the original and corrected CanRCM4 data are available at (Asong et al., 2019).

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Paleo-hydrologic reconstruction of 400 years of past flows at a weekly time step for major rivers of Western Canada
Andrew Slaughter | Saman Razavi

Abstract. The assumption of stationarity in water resources no longer holds, particularly within the context of future climate change. Plausible scenarios of flows that fluctuate outside the envelope of variability of the gauging data are required to assess the robustness of water resource systems to future conditions. This study presents a novel method of generating weekly time step flows based on tree-ring chronology data. Specifically, this method addresses two long-standing challenges with paleo-reconstruction: (i) the typically limited predictive power of tree-ring data at the annual and sub-annual scale and (ii) the inflated short-term persistence in tree-ring time series and improper use of pre-whitening. Unlike the conventional approach, this method establishes relationships between tree-ring chronologies and naturalized flow at a biennial scale to preserve persistence properties and variability of hydrological time series. Biennial flow reconstructions are further disaggregated to weekly flow reconstructions, according to the weekly flow distribution of reference 2-year instrumental periods, identified as periods with broadly similar tree-ring properties to those of every 2-year paleo-period. The Saskatchewan River basin (SaskRB) in Western Canada is selected as a study area, and weekly flows in its four major tributaries are extended back to the year 1600. The study shows that the reconstructed flows properly preserve the statistical properties of the reference flows, particularly in terms of short- to long-term persistence and the structure of variability across timescales. An ensemble approach is presented to represent the uncertainty inherent in the statistical relationships and disaggregation method. The ensemble of reconstructed weekly flows are publicly available for download from (Slaughter and Razavi, 2019).