Modelling climate impact on floods with ensemble climate projections

Hannah L. Cloke*, Fredrik Wetterhall, Yi He, Jim E. Freer, Florian Pappenberger

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

64 Citations (Scopus)


The evidence provided by modelled assessments of future climate impact on flooding is fundamental to water resources and flood risk decision making. Impact models usually rely on climate projections from global and regional climate models (GCM/RCMs). However, challenges in representing precipitation events at catchment-scale resolution mean that decisions must be made on how to appropriately pre-process the meteorological variables from GCM/RCMs. Here the impacts on projected high flows of differing ensemble approaches and application of Model Output Statistics to RCM precipitation are evaluated while assessing climate change impact on flood hazard in the Upper Severn catchment in the UK. Various ensemble projections are used together with the HBV hydrological model with direct forcing and also compared to a response surface technique. We consider an ensemble of single-model RCM projections from the current UK Climate Projections (UKCP09); multi-model ensemble RCM projections from the European Union's FP6 'ENSEMBLES' project; and a joint probability distribution of precipitation and temperature from a GCM-based perturbed physics ensemble. The ensemble distribution of results show that flood hazard in the Upper Severn is likely to increase compared to present conditions, but the study highlights the differences between the results from different ensemble methods and the strong assumptions made in using Model Output Statistics to produce the estimates of future river discharge. The results underline the challenges in using the current generation of RCMs for local climate impact studies on flooding.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)282-297
Number of pages16
JournalQuarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society
Issue number671
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2013


  • GCM
  • Hydrological model
  • Hydrology
  • Perturbed physics
  • RCM
  • Response surface
  • UKCP09

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