06 Sep 2023
 | 06 Sep 2023
Status: this preprint is open for discussion.

Assessing the impact of climate change on high return levels of peak flows in Bavaria applying the CRCM5 Large Ensemble

Florian Willkofer, Raul Roger Wood, and Ralf Ludwig

Abstract. Severe floods with extreme return periods of 100 years and beyond have been observed in several large rivers in Bavaria in the last three decades. Flood protection structures are typically designed based on a 100-year event, relying on statistical extrapolations of relatively short observation time series while ignoring potential temporal non-stationarity. However, future precipitation projections indicate an increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme rainfall events, as well as a shift in seasonality. This study aims to examine the impact of climate change on the 100-year flood (HF100) events on 98 hydrometric gauges within the Hydrological Bavaria. A hydrological climate change impact (CCI) modelling chain consisting of a regional single model initial condition large ensemble (SMILE) and a single hydrological model was created. The 50 equally probable members of the CRCM5-LE were used to drive the hydrological model WaSiM to create a hydro-SMILE. As a result, a database of 1,500 model years (50 members x 30 years) per investigated time period was established for extreme value analysis (EVA) to illustrate the benefit of the hydro-SMILE approach for a robust estimation of the HF100 based on annual maxima (AM), and to examine the CCI on the frequency and intensity of HF100 in different discharge regimes under a strong emission scenario (RCP8.5). The results demonstrate that the hydro-SMILE approach provides a clear advantage for a robust estimation of the HF100 using empirical probability on 1,500 AM compared to its estimation using the generalized extreme value (GEV) distribution on 1,000 samples of typically available time series size of 30, 100, and 200 years. Thereby, by applying the hydro-SMILE framework the uncertainty from statistical estimation can be reduced. The CCI on the HF100 varies for different flow regimes, with snowmelt-driven catchments experiencing severe increases in frequency and intensity, leading to unseen extremes that impact the distribution. Pluvial regimes show a lower intensification or even decline. The study highlights the added value of using hydrological SMILEs to project future flood return levels.

Florian Willkofer et al.

Status: open (until 05 Nov 2023)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse

Florian Willkofer et al.

Florian Willkofer et al.


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Short summary
Severe flood events pose threat to riverine areas, yet robust estimates about the dynamics of these events in the future due to climate change are rarely available. Hence, this study uses and benefits from data from a RCM SMILE to drive a high-resolution hydrological model for 98 catchments of the Hydrological Bavaria to exploit the large database to derive robust values for the 100-year flood events. Results indicate an increase in frequency and intensity for most catchments in the future.