Response of Hydrology to Climate Change in the Southern Appalachian Mountains Using Bayesian Inference

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Coastal Sciences, Gulf Coast Research Laboratory


Predicting long-term consequences of climate change on hydrologic processes has been limited due to the needs to accommodate the uncertainties in hydrological measurements for calibration, and to account for the uncertainties in the models that would ingest those calibrations and uncertainties in climate predictions as basis for hydrological predictions. We implemented a hierarchical Bayesian (HB) analysis to coherently admit multiple data sources and uncertainties including data inputs, parameters, and model structures to identify the potential consequences of climate change on soil moisture and streamflow at the head watersheds ranging from low to high elevations in the southern Appalachian region of the United States. We have considered climate change scenarios based on three greenhouse gas emission scenarios of the Interovernmental Panel on Climate Change: A2, A1B, and B1 emission scenarios. Full predictive distributions based on HB models are capable of providing rich information and facilitating the summarization of prediction uncertainties. With predictive uncertainties taken into account, the most pronounced change in soil moisture and streamflow would occur under the A2 scenario at both low and high elevations, followed by the A1B scenario and then by the B1 scenario. Uncertainty in the change of soil moisture is less than that of streamflow for each season, especially at high elevations. A reduction of soil moisture in summer and fall, a reduction or slight increase of streamflow in summer, and an increase of streamflow in winter are predicted for all three scenarios at both low and high elevations. The hydrological predictions with quantified uncertainties from a HB model could aid more-informed water resource management in developing mitigation plans and dealing with water security under climate change. Copyright (c) 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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Hydrological Processes





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