From climate model ensembles to climate change impacts and adaptation: A case study of water resource management in the southwest of England
Article first published online: 13 AUG 2009
Copyright 2009 by the American Geophysical Union.
Water Resources Research
Volume 45, Issue 8, August 2009
How to Cite
2009), From climate model ensembles to climate change impacts and adaptation: A case study of water resource management in the southwest of England, Water Resour. Res., 45, W08419, doi:10.1029/2008WR007499., , , , , and (
- Issue published online: 13 AUG 2009
- Article first published online: 13 AUG 2009
- Manuscript Accepted: 29 MAY 2009
- Manuscript Revised: 31 MAR 2009
- Manuscript Received: 2 OCT 2008
- water resources management;
- climate change;
- probabilistic climate change predictions
 The majority of climate change impacts and adaptation studies so far have been based on at most a few deterministic realizations of future climate, usually representing different emissions scenarios. Large ensembles of climate models are increasingly available either as ensembles of opportunity or perturbed physics ensembles, providing a wealth of additional data that is potentially useful for improving adaptation strategies to climate change. Because of the novelty of this ensemble information, there is little previous experience of practical applications or of the added value of this information for impacts and adaptation decision making. This paper evaluates the value of perturbed physics ensembles of climate models for understanding and planning public water supply under climate change. We deliberately select water resource models that are already used by water supply companies and regulators on the assumption that uptake of information from large ensembles of climate models will be more likely if it does not involve significant investment in new modeling tools and methods. We illustrate the methods with a case study on the Wimbleball water resource zone in the southwest of England. This zone is sufficiently simple to demonstrate the utility of the approach but with enough complexity to allow a variety of different decisions to be made. Our research shows that the additional information contained in the climate model ensemble provides a better understanding of the possible ranges of future conditions, compared to the use of single-model scenarios. Furthermore, with careful presentation, decision makers will find the results from large ensembles of models more accessible and be able to more easily compare the merits of different management options and the timing of different adaptation. The overhead in additional time and expertise for carrying out the impacts analysis will be justified by the increased quality of the decision-making process. We remark that even though we have focused our study on a water resource system in the United Kingdom, our conclusions about the added value of climate model ensembles in guiding adaptation decisions can be generalized to other sectors and geographical regions.