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Hydrologic impacts of projected future climate change in the Lake Michigan region

TitleHydrologic impacts of projected future climate change in the Lake Michigan region
Publication TypeManual Entry
Year of Publication2010
AuthorsCherkauer, Keith A., and Tushar Sinha
Journal of Great Lakes Research

The Great Lakes are an important source of fresh water, recreation resource and transportation corridor for the Midwestern United States and Canada. The timing and quantity of fresh water inputs and how those may change under projections of future climate change are important for understanding how conditions, including river flows, and lake levels, within the region may be affected. Water quality and the density and diversity of in-stream habitats are responsive to changes in the distribution of daily streamflow, something not typically included in studies of climate change impacts. Projections of precipitation and air temperature changes in the four states surrounding Lake Michigan from the IPCC AR4 were downscaled and bias-corrected before being used to drive a large-scale hydrology model and produce maps of surface runoff and baseflow. These were then routed along drainage networks for regional rivers, and hydrologic metrics describing aspects of the distribution of daily flows important for hydrology and in-stream ecology were computed. The impact of regional climate change projections on early- (water years 2010-2039) and mid-century (water years 2040-2069) streamflow was highly variable; however, by the late-century period (water years 2070-2099) annual streamflow was found to have increased in all rivers. Seasonally, winter and spring flows increased significantly by the late-century period, but summer flows become more variable with a decrease in low-flows and an increase in peak-flows. The number of days with flows above the annual mean-flow (T-Qmean) decreased in summer, but flashiness (R-B Index) increased. (c) 2010 Published by Elsevier B.V.

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Community Notes

Paper Takeaways:

  • GFDL and HadCM3 are studied under the A1B, A2 and B1 GHG scenarios
  • "Precipitation increases for all seasons but summer by the end of the century...with maximum increases (between 14% and 42% in both the A1B and A2 scenarios) in the spring"
  • "Winter and spring total runoff increased on average by 20–60% for the late-century period."
  • "The number of low-flow days increased on average on an annual basis, by 15%, by the end of the century, from about 105 days per year in the base period to about 120 days"
  • "Seasonally, high-flow sums increased by an average of 104.6% in winter, 60.3% in spring and 27.9% in summer for all watersheds, reflecting the reduction in traditional cold season storage processes and the increase in precipitation in Winter and Spring"

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