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Uncertainty assessments and hydrological implications of climate change in two adjacent agricultural catchments of a rapidly urbanizing watershed

The Science of The Total Environment
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2013.12.032
  • Statistical Downscaling
  • Phenology
  • Climate Change
  • Lake Simcoe
  • Hydrological Change
  • Uncertainty Analysis
  • Agricultural Science
  • Earth Science
  • Geography


Abstract Lake Simcoe is the most important inland lake in Southern Ontario. The watershed is predominantly agricultural and under increasing pressure from urbanization, leading to changing runoff patterns in rivers draining to the lake. Uncertainties in rainfall–runoff modeling in tributary catchments of the Lake Simcoe Watershed (LSW) can be an order of magnitude larger than pristine watersheds, hampering water quality predictions and export calculations. Here we conduct a robust assessment to constrain the uncertainty in hydrological simulations and projections in the LSW using two representative adjacent agricultural catchments. Downscaled CGCM 3 projections using A1B and A2 emission scenarios projected increases of 4°C in air temperature and a 26% longer growing season. The fraction of precipitation falling as snow will decrease. Spring runoff is an important event in LSW but individual HBV best calibrated parameter sets under-predicted peak flows by up to 32%. Using an ensemble of behavioral parameter sets achieved credible representations of present day hydrology and constrained uncertainties in future projections. Parameter uncertainty analysis showed that the catchments differ in terms of their snow accumulation/melt and groundwater dynamics. Human activities exacerbate the differences in hydrological response. Model parameterization in one catchment could not generate credible hydrological simulations in the other. We cautioned against extrapolating results from monitored to ungauged catchments in managed watersheds like the LSW.

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