Accounting for interannual variability: A comparison of options for water resources climate change impact assessments



[1] Empirical scaling approaches for constructing rainfall scenarios from general circulation model (GCM) simulations are commonly used in water resources climate change impact assessments. However, these approaches have a number of limitations, not the least of which is that they cannot account for changes in variability or persistence at annual and longer time scales. Bias correction of GCM rainfall projections offers an attractive alternative to scaling methods as it has similar advantages to scaling in that it is computationally simple, can consider multiple GCM outputs, and can be easily applied to different regions or climatic regimes. In addition, it also allows for interannual variability to evolve according to the GCM simulations, which provides additional scenarios for risk assessments. This paper compares two scaling and four bias correction approaches for estimating changes in future rainfall over Australia and for a case study for water supply from the Warragamba catchment, located near Sydney, Australia. A validation of the various rainfall estimation procedures is conducted on the basis of the latter half of the observational rainfall record. It was found that the method leading to the lowest prediction errors varies depending on the rainfall statistic of interest. The flexibility of bias correction approaches in matching rainfall parameters at different frequencies is demonstrated. The results also indicate that for Australia, the scaling approaches lead to smaller estimates of uncertainty associated with changes to interannual variability for the period 2070–2099 compared to the bias correction approaches. These changes are also highlighted using the case study for the Warragamba Dam catchment.