Sensitivity of simulated global-scale freshwater fluxes and storages to input data, hydrological model structure, human water use and calibration

  • Global-scale assessments of freshwater fluxes and storages by hydrological models under historic climate conditions are subject to a variety of uncertainties. Using the global hydrological model WaterGAP 2.2, we investigated the sensitivity of simulated freshwater fluxes and water storage variations to five major sources of uncertainty: climate forcing, land cover input, model structure, consideration of human water use and calibration (or no calibration). In a modelling experiment, five variants of the standard version of WaterGAP 2.2 were generated that differed from the standard version only regarding the investigated source of uncertainty. Sensitivity was analyzed by comparing water fluxes and water storage variations computed by the variants to those of the standard version, considering both global averages and grid cell values for the time period 1971–2000. The basin-specific calibration approach for WaterGAP, which forces simulated mean annual river discharge to be equal to observed values at 1319 gauging stations (representing 54% of global land area except Antarctica and Greenland), has the highest effect on modelled water fluxes and leads to the best fit of modelled to observed monthly and seasonal river discharge. Alternative state-of-the-art climate forcings rank second regarding the impact on grid cell specific fluxes and water storage variations, and their impact is ubiquitous and stronger than that of alternative land cover inputs. The diverse model refinements during the last decade lead to an improved fit to observed discharge, and affect globally averaged fluxes and storage values (the latter mainly due to modelling of groundwater depletion) but only affect a relatively small number of grid cells. Considering human water use is important for the global water storage trend (in particular in the groundwater compartment) but impacts on water fluxes are rather local and only important where water use is high. The best fit to observed time series of monthly river discharge (Nash–Sutcliffe criterion) or discharge seasonality is obtained with the standard WaterGAP 2.2 model version which is calibrated and driven by a sequence of two time series of daily observation-based climate forcings, WFD/WFDEI. Discharge computed by a calibrated model version using monthly CRU 3.2 and GPCC v6 climate input reduced the fit to observed discharge for most stations. Taking into account the investigated uncertainties of climate and land cover data, we estimate that the global 1971–2000 discharge into oceans and inland sinks is between 40 000 and 42 000 km3 yr−1. The range is mainly due differences in precipitation data that affect discharge in uncalibrated river basins. Actual evapotranspiration, with approximately 70 000 km3 yr−1, is rather unaffected by climate and land cover in global sum but differs spatially. Human water use is calculated to reduce river discharge by approximately 1000 km3 yr−1. Thus, global renewable water resources are estimated to range between 41 000 and 43 000 km3 yr−1. The climate data sets WFD (available until 2001) and WFDEI (starting in 1979) were found to be inconsistent with respect to short wave radiation data, resulting in strongly different potential evapotranspiration. Global assessments of freshwater fluxes and storages would therefore benefit from the development of a global data set of consistent daily climate forcing from 1900 to current.

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Author:Hannes Müller SchmiedORCiDGND, Stephanie Eisner, Daniela Franz, Martin Wattenbach, Felix Theodor Portmann, Martina Flörke, Petra Döll
Parent Title (English):Hydrology and earth system sciences discussions, 11,2014, S. 1583-1649
Publisher:European Geophysical Society
Place of publication:Katlenburg-Lindau
Document Type:Article
Date of Publication (online):2014/02/07
Date of first Publication:2014/02/07
Publishing Institution:Universitätsbibliothek Johann Christian Senckenberg
Release Date:2014/07/28
Page Number:67
First Page:1583
Last Page:1649
© Author(s) 2014. CC Attribution 3.0 License.
Institutes:Geowissenschaften / Geographie / Geowissenschaften
Dewey Decimal Classification:5 Naturwissenschaften und Mathematik / 55 Geowissenschaften, Geologie / 550 Geowissenschaften
Licence (German):License LogoCreative Commons - Namensnennung 3.0