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Keywords:

  • climate change;
  • urbanization;
  • runoff;
  • SWAT;
  • land-use scenario, Oregon

Abstract

Climate changes brought on by increasing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are expected to have a significant effect on the Pacific Northwest hydrology during the 21st century. Many climate model simulations project higher mean annual temperatures and temporal redistribution of precipitation. This is of particular concern for highly urbanized basins where runoff changes are more vulnerable to changes in climate. The Rock Creek basin, located in the Portland metropolitan area, has been experiencing rapid urban growth throughout the last 30 years, making it an ideal study area for assessing the effect of climate and land cover changes on runoff. A combination of climate change and land cover change scenarios for 2040 with the semi-distributed AVSWAT (ArcView Soil and Water Assessment Tool) hydrological model was used to determine changes in mean runoff depths in the 2040s (2030–2059) from the baseline period (1973–2002) at the monthly, seasonal, and annual scales. Statistically downscaled climate change simulation results from the ECHAM5 general circulation model (GCM) found that the region would experience an increase of 1·2 °C in the average annual temperature and a 2% increase in average annual precipitation from the baseline period. AVSWAT simulation shows a 2·7% increase in mean annual runoff but a 1·6% decrease in summer runoff. Projected climate change plus low-density, sprawled urban development for 2040 produced the greatest change to mean annual runoff depth (+5·5%), while climate change plus higher-density urban development for 2040 resulted in the smallest change (+5·2%), when compared with the climate and land cover of the baseline period. This has significant implications for water resource managers attempting to implement adaptive water resource policies to future changes resulting from climate and urbanization. Copyright © 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.