Spatial uncertainty in bias corrected climate change projections and hydrogeological impacts

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The question of which climate model bias correction methods and spatial scales for correction are optimal for both projecting future hydrological changes as well as removing initial model bias has so far received little attention. For 11 climate models (CMs), or GCM/RCM - Global/Regional Climate Model pairing, this paper analyses the relationship between complexity and robustness of three distribution-based scaling (DBS) bias correction methods applied to daily precipitation at various spatial scales. Hydrological simulations are forced by CM inputs to assess the spatial uncertainty of groundwater head and stream discharge given the various DBS methods. A unique metric is devised, which allows for comparison of spatial variability in climate model bias and projected change in precipitation. It is found that the spatial variability in climate model bias is larger than in the climate change signals. The magnitude of spatial bias seen in precipitation inputs does not necessarily correspond to the magnitude of biases seen in hydrological outputs. Variables that integrate basin responses over time and space are more sensitive to mean spatial biases and less so on extremes. Hydrological simulations forced by the least parameterized DBS approach show the highest error in mean and maximum groundwater heads; however, the most highly parameterised DBS approach shows less robustness in future periods compared with the reference period it was trained in. For hydrological impacts studies, choice of bias correction method should depend on the spatial scale at which hydrological impacts variables are required and whether CM initial bias is spatially uniform or spatially varying.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4514-4532
Number of pages19
JournalHydrological Processes
Issue number20
Publication statusPublished - 30 Sept 2015


  • Bias correction
  • Climate change
  • Hydrological impacts
  • Spatial bias
  • Uncertainty
  • DK-model

Programme Area

  • Programme Area 2: Water Resources


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