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Statistical downscaling of general circulation model outputs to precipitation

By Dhanapala Sachindra, Fuchun Huang, Andrew Barton and Bimalka Perera


Victoria suffered a severe drought over the period 1998-2007, when the annual average precipitation plunged by about 13% from the long term average. Precipitation is directly related to the availability of water resources in a catchment. Therefore it is useful to predict precipitation, particularly in light of any future climate change, which will help in the management of water resources at the catchment level. General Circulation Models (GCMs) are considered to be the most advanced tools available for simulating the future climate. Due to the coarse spatial resolution, however, GCM outputs cannot be used directly at the catchment scale. To overcome this problem statistical and dynamic downscaling techniques have been developed. Downscaling techniques link the coarse GCM outputs to catchment scale hydroclimatic variables. The present research has focussed on statistically downscaling monthly NCEP/NCAR reanalysis outputs to monthly precipitation at the catchment level. A precipitation station in the operational area of the Grampians Wimmera Mallee Water Corporation (GWMWater) in northwestern Victoria was considered as the case study. Multi-linear regression was used in the development of the downscaling models. This research employed separate downscaling models for each calendar month, with the intention of better capturing the seasonal variations of precipitation. A set of probable predictors were selected following the past literature and hydrology. Data for the probable predictors and precipitation were split into three 20 year time slices; 1950-1969, 1970-1989 and 1990-2010. The probable predictors which displayed the best statistically significant correlations consistently with precipitation over the three time slices and the whole period of the study were selected as potential predictors, for each calendar month. These potential predictors were introduced to the downscaling model one at a time based on the strength of the correlation, over the whole period of the study, until the model performance, in terms of Nash-Sutcliffe Efficiency (NSE), was maximised. This approach ensured the identification of the best potential predictor for each calendar month. In calibration and validation, the model displayed good performances with NSEs of 0.74 and 0.70 respectively. In calibration, the average precipitation was perfectly reproduced by the model and in validation it was slightly over-predicted. However, both in calibration and validation, the model tended to under-predict high precipitations and over-predict near-zero precipitations. A graphical comparison of observed precipitation, downscaling model reproduced precipitation and the Hadley Centre Coupled Model version 3 GCM (HadCM 3) simulated raw precipitation output, revealed that there is large bias in the HadCM 3 precipitation outputs. Therefore, before producing any future precipitation projections with the downscaling model, a bias correction to GCM outputs is prescribed

Topics: 0905 Civil Engineering, 0907 Environmental Engineering
Year: 2012
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