Articles | Volume 31
11 Dec 2012
 | 11 Dec 2012

Statistical bias correction of global climate projections – consequences for large scale modeling of flood flows

S. Eisner, F. Voss, and E. Kynast

Abstract. General circulation models (GCMs) project an increasing frequency and intensity of heavy rainfall events due to global climate change. This rather holds true for regions that are even expected to experience an overall decrease in average annual precipitation. Consequently, this may be attended by an increasing frequency and magnitude of flood events. However, time series of GCMs show a bias in simulating 20th century precipitation and temperature fields and, therefore, cannot directly be used to force hydrological models in order to assess the impact of the projected climate change on certain components of the hydrological cycle. For a posteriori correction, the so-called delta change approach is widely-used which adds the 30-year monthly differences for temperature or ratios for precipitation of the GCM data to each month of a historic climate data set. As the variability of the climate variables in the scenario period is not transferred, this approach is especially questionable if discharge extremes are to be analyzed. In order to preserve the variability given by the GCM, methods of statistical bias correction are applied. This study aims to investigate the impact of two methods of bias correction, the delta change approach and a statistical bias correction, on the large scale modeling of flood discharges, using the example of 25 macroscale catchments in Europe. The discharge simulation is carried out with the global integrated model WaterGAP3 (Water – Global Assessment and Prognosis). Results show that the two bias correction methods lead to distinctively different trends in future flood flows.