Quantifying uncertainty in future floods and drought conditions in the Northeastern United States using regionally downscaled climate projections
Northeastern region (NER) of the United States (US) has been projected to be a place where climate change can have the most severe impacts. These impacts include, but are not limited to, increases in the following: extreme precipitation events, temperature, flood magnitudes, flood frequencies, droughts, and sea level rise. In this study, we estimate the frequency of hydrological extremes under different climate change scenarios using regionally downscaled climate projections from a limited number of selected models from the fifth phase of Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5). The models are chosen to minimize the loss of key climate information relevant to the NER. Precipitation and temperature from the selected models are forced into a distributed hydrological model called Hydrology Laboratory - Research Distributed Hydrological Model (HL-RDHM) to obtain streamflows for two different time regimes, near-term (20-50 years out) and long-term (50-80 years out). For this, two climate emission scenarios will be considered: RCP 4.5 and RCP 8.5. The impacts of the climate projections on the streamflows are then evaluated across different watershed scales in the NER. Among different metrics, we employ: 1) Flood Events - return period of 1 year, 10 year, 20 year, 50 year, and 100 year flood events and 2) Drought Events -low flow events associated with the 7-day 10 year low flow, number of days per month that will be below the historic monthly average, number of days per month that will be below the 25 percentile monthly historic average, changes in the 30-day and 60-day cumulative summer flows, and the timing and magnitude of spring run-off. For estimates of the climate impacts on low and high flows, only the unregulated watersheds are taken into consideration. Ensembles of streamflows obtained by forcing different climate projections are used to quantify and account for the associated uncertainties. Thus, the outcomes of this study are expected to guide regional decision makers on potential impacts of climate change on hydrological extreme events and water resources across different spatial scales within NER of the US.