Stochastic assessment of climate impacts on hydrology and geomorphology of semiarid headwater basins using a physically-based model

Antonio Francipane, Leonardo Noto, Simone Fatichi, Valeriy Y. Ivanov

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25 Citations (Scopus)


Hydrologic and geomorphic responses of watersheds to changes in climate are difficult to assess due to projection uncertainties and nonlinearity of the processes that are involved. Yet such assessments are increasingly needed and call for mechanistic approaches within a probabilistic framework. This study employs an integrated hydrology-geomorphology model, the Triangulated Irregular Network-based Real-time Integrated Basin Simulator (tRIBS)-Erosion, to analyze runoff and erosion sensitivity of seven semiarid headwater basins to projected climate conditions. The Advanced Weather Generator is used to produce two climate ensembles representative of the historic and future climate conditions for the Walnut Gulch Experimental Watershed located in the southwest U.S. The former ensemble incorporates the stochastic variability of the observed climate, while the latter includes the stochastic variability and the uncertainty of multimodel climate change projections. The ensembles are used as forcing for tRIBS-Erosion that simulates runoff and sediment basin responses leading to probabilistic inferences of future changes. The results show that annual precipitation for the area is generally expected to decrease in the future, with lower hourly intensities and similar daily rates. The smaller hourly rainfall generally results in lower mean annual runoff. However, a non-negligible probability of runoff increase in the future is identified, resulting from stochastic combinations of years with low and high runoff. On average, the magnitudes of mean and extreme events of sediment yield are expected to decrease with a very high probability. Importantly, the projected variability of annual sediment transport for the future conditions is comparable to that for the historic conditions, despite the fact that the former account for a much wider range of possible climate “alternatives.” This result demonstrates that the historic natural climate variability of sediment yield is already so high, that it is comparable to the variability for a projected and highlyuncertain future. Additionally, changes in the scaling relationship between specific sediment yield/runoff and drainage basin area are detected.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)507-533
Number of pages27
Publication statusPublished - 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Forestry
  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Soil Science
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Palaeontology
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Geophysics


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