Articles | Volume 7, issue 1
26 Apr 2011
 | 26 Apr 2011

Regional climate projections in two alpine river basins: Upper Danube and Upper Brahmaputra

A. Dobler, M. Yaoming, N. Sharma, S. Kienberger, and B. Ahrens

Abstract. Projections from coarse-grid global circulation models are not suitable for regional estimates of water balance or trends of extreme precipitation and temperature, especially not in complex terrain. Thus, downscaling of global to regionally resolved projections is necessary to provide input to integrated water resources management approaches for river basins like the Upper Danube River Basin (UDRB) and the Upper Brahmaputra River Basin (UBRB).

This paper discusses the application of the regional climate model COSMO-CLM as a dynamical downscaling tool. To provide accurate data the COSMO-CLM model output was post-processed by statistical means. This downscaling chain performs well in the baseline period 1971 to 2000. However, COSMO-CLM performs better in the UDRB than in the UBRB because of a longer application experience and a less complex climate in Europe.

Different climate change scenarios were downscaled for the time period 1960–2100. The projections show an increase of temperature in both basins and for all seasons. The values are generally higher in the UBRB with the highest values occurring in the region of the Tibetan Plateau. Annual precipitation shows no substantial change. However, seasonal amounts show clear trends, for instance an increasing amount of spring precipitation in the UDRB. Again, the largest trends for different precipitation statistics are projected in the region of the Tibetan Plateau. Here, the projections show up to 50% longer dry periods in the months June to September with a simultaneous increase of about 10% for the maximum amount of precipitation on five consecutive days. For the Assam region in India, the projections also show an increase of 25% in the number of consecutive dry days during the monsoon season leading to prolonged monsoon breaks.