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Richard Harding
,
Martin Best
,
Eleanor Blyth
,
Stefan Hagemann
,
Pavel Kabat
,
Lena M. Tallaksen
,
Tanya Warnaars
,
David Wiberg
,
Graham P. Weedon
,
Henny van Lanen
,
Fulco Ludwig
, and
Ingjerd Haddeland

Abstract

Water-related impacts are among the most important consequences of increasing greenhouse gas concentrations. Changes in the global water cycle will also impact the carbon and nutrient cycles and vegetation patterns. There is already some evidence of increasing severity of floods and droughts and increasing water scarcity linked to increasing greenhouse gases. So far, however, the most important impacts on water resources are the direct interventions by humans, such as dams, water extractions, and river channel modifications. The Water and Global Change (WATCH) project is a major international initiative to bring together climate and water scientists to better understand the current and future water cycle. This paper summarizes the underlying motivation for the WATCH project and the major results from a series of papers published or soon to be published in the Journal of Hydrometeorology WATCH special collection. At its core is the Water Model Intercomparison Project (WaterMIP), which brings together a wide range of global hydrological and land surface models run with consistent driving data. It is clear that we still have considerable uncertainties in the future climate drivers and in how the river systems will respond to these changes. There is a grand challenge to the hydrological and climate communities to both reduce these uncertainties and communicate them to a wider society.

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Ingjerd Haddeland
,
Douglas B. Clark
,
Wietse Franssen
,
Fulco Ludwig
,
Frank Voß
,
Nigel W. Arnell
,
Nathalie Bertrand
,
Martin Best
,
Sonja Folwell
,
Dieter Gerten
,
Sandra Gomes
,
Simon N. Gosling
,
Stefan Hagemann
,
Naota Hanasaki
,
Richard Harding
,
Jens Heinke
,
Pavel Kabat
,
Sujan Koirala
,
Taikan Oki
,
Jan Polcher
,
Tobias Stacke
,
Pedro Viterbo
,
Graham P. Weedon
, and
Pat Yeh

Abstract

Six land surface models and five global hydrological models participate in a model intercomparison project [Water Model Intercomparison Project (WaterMIP)], which for the first time compares simulation results of these different classes of models in a consistent way. In this paper, the simulation setup is described and aspects of the multimodel global terrestrial water balance are presented. All models were run at 0.5° spatial resolution for the global land areas for a 15-yr period (1985–99) using a newly developed global meteorological dataset. Simulated global terrestrial evapotranspiration, excluding Greenland and Antarctica, ranges from 415 to 586 mm yr−1 (from 60 000 to 85 000 km3 yr−1), and simulated runoff ranges from 290 to 457 mm yr−1 (from 42 000 to 66 000 km3 yr−1). Both the mean and median runoff fractions for the land surface models are lower than those of the global hydrological models, although the range is wider. Significant simulation differences between land surface and global hydrological models are found to be caused by the snow scheme employed. The physically based energy balance approach used by land surface models generally results in lower snow water equivalent values than the conceptual degree-day approach used by global hydrological models. Some differences in simulated runoff and evapotranspiration are explained by model parameterizations, although the processes included and parameterizations used are not distinct to either land surface models or global hydrological models. The results show that differences between models are a major source of uncertainty. Climate change impact studies thus need to use not only multiple climate models but also some other measure of uncertainty (e.g., multiple impact models).

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