Use of very high resolution climate model data for hydrological modelling: estimation of potential evaporation

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Courtesy of IWA Publishing

Climate model data are increasingly used to drive hydrological models, to assess the possible impacts of climate change on river flows. Hydrological models often require potential evaporation (PE) from vegetation, alongside precipitation, but PE is not usually output by climate models so has to be estimated from other meteorological variables. Here, the Penman–Monteith formula is applied to estimate PE using data from a 12 km Regional Climate Model (RCM) and a nested very high resolution (1.5 km) RCM covering southern Britain. PE estimates from RCM runs driven by reanalysis boundary conditions are compared to observation-based PE data, to assess performance. The comparison shows that both the 1.5 and 12 km RCMs reproduce observation-based PE well, on daily and monthly time-steps, and enables choices to be made about application of the formula using the available data. Data from Current and Future RCM runs driven by boundary conditions from a Global Climate Model are then used to investigate potential future changes in PE, and how certain factors affect those changes. In particular, the importance of including changes in canopy resistance is demonstrated. PE projections are also shown to vary to some extent according to how aerosols are modelled in the RCMs.

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