Estimates of Climate Change Impact on River Discharge in Japan Based on a Super-High-Resolution Climate Model

  • Author(s): Yoshinobu Sato, Toshiharu Kojiri, Yuri Michihiro, Yasushi Suzuki, and Eiichi Nakakita
  • DOI: 10.3319/TAO.2012.05.03.02(WMH)
  • Keywords: Climate change, River discharge, AGCM, Distributed hydrological model



The impact of climate change on river discharge was assessed by hydrological simulations for several major river basins in Japan using the latest version of a super-high-resolution atmospheric general circulation model (AGCM) with a horizontal resolution of about 20 km. Projections were made using two different datasets, one representing the present climate (1980 - 1999) and the other representing the end of the 21st century (2080 - 2099) assuming the SRES A1B scenario. River discharge was estimated by a distributed hydrological model calibrated against observed river discharge in advance. The results showed that even if the amount of precipitation does not change much in the future, river discharge will change significantly because of the increase in rainfall, decrease in snowmelt, and increase in evapotranspiration with higher air temperature. The impact of climate change on river discharge will be more significant in the northern part of Japan, especially in the Tohoku and Hokuriku regions. In these regions, the monthly average river discharge at the end of the 21st century was projected to be more than 200% higher in February and approximately 50 - 60% lower in May compared with the present flow. These results imply that the increase in air temperature has important consequences for the hydrological cycle, particularly in regions where the water supply is currently dominated by snowmelt.

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