Analysis of potential future climate and climate extremes in the brazos headwaters Basin, Texas

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Water (Switzerland)


Texas' fast-growing economy and population, coupled with cycles of droughts due to climate change, are creating an insatiable demand for water and an increasing need to understand the potential impacts of future climates and climate extremes on the state's water resources. The objective of this study was to determine potential future climates and climate extremes; and to assess spatial and temporal changes in precipitation (Prec), and minimum and maximum temperature (Tmin and Tmax, respectively), in the Brazos Headwaters Basin under three greenhouse gas emissions scenarios (A2, A1B, and B1) for three future periods: 2020s (2011-2030), 2055s (2046-2065), and 2090s (2080-2099). Daily gridded climate data obtained from Climate Forecast System Reanalysis (CFSR) were used to downscale outputs from 15 General Circulation Models (GCMs) using the Long Ashton Research Station-Weather Generator (LARS-WG) model. Results indicate that basin average Tmin and Tmax will increase; however, annual precipitation will decrease for all periods. Annual precipitation will decrease by up to 5.2% and 6.8% in the 2055s and 2090s, respectively. However, in some locations in the basin, up to a 14% decrease in precipitation is projected in the 2090s under the A2 (high) emissions scenario. Overall, the northwestern and southern part of the Brazos Headwaters Basin will experience greater decreases in precipitation. Moreover, precipitation indices of the number of wet days (prec ≥ 5 mm) and heavy precipitation days (prec ≥ 10 mm) are projected to slightly decrease for all future periods. On the other hand, Tmin and Tmax will increase by 2 and 3 °C on average in the 2055s and 2090s, respectively. Mostly, projected increases in Tmin and Tmax will be in the upper range in the southern and southeastern part of the basin. Temperature indices of frost (Tmin < 0 °C) and ice days (Tmax < 0 °C) are projected to decrease, while tropical nights (Tmin > 20 °C) and summer days (Tmax > 25 °C) are expected to increase. However, while the frequency distribution of meteorological drought shows slight shifts towards the dry range, there was no significant difference between the baseline and projected meteorological drought frequency and severity.



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