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Keywords:

  • climate change;
  • lower Missouri River Basin;
  • hydrological variability;
  • NARCCAP ;
  • SWAT

Abstract

The lower Missouri River Basin has experienced increasing streamflow and flooding events, with higher risk of extreme hydrologic impacts under changing climate. The newly available North American Regional Climate Change Assessment Program (NARCCAP) climate projections were used as atmospheric forcing for Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) model which runs with varying potential evapotranspiration (PET) methods to assess the hydrological change and uncertainty of 2040-2069 over 1968-1997. The NARCCAP temperature and precipitation predictions were refined using a bias correction method. The results show that, following the seasonal variability of precipitation, various water fluxes would increase in most seasons except the summer. Expected precipitation tends to increase in intensity with little change in frequency, triggering faster surface water concentration to form floods. The greatest streamflow increase would occur from November to February, increasing by around 10% on average. An increase of 3% occurs in the other months except for July and August in which river discharge decreases by around 2%. The climate predictions contribute more uncertainty annually, but PET algorithms gain more influence in winter or when other weather factors such as wind play a relatively more important role on evapotranspiration flux. This study predicts an even wetter environment compared to the historically very wet period, with the possibility of more flooding.