Assessing the Influence of a Bias Correction Method on Future Climate Scenarios Using SWAT as an Impact Model Indicator

Tássia Mattos Brighenti, Philip W. Gassman, William J. Gutowski, Jr. and Janette R. Thompson

Department of Energy, Office of Science, Earth & Environmental Systems Modeling Program Acknowledged Support: Yes, Multisector Dynamics and Regional and Global Model Analysis


In this study, we evaluate the implications of a bias correction method on a combination of Global/Regional Climate Models (GCM and RCM) for simulating precipitation and, subsequently, streamflow, surface runoff, and water yield in the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT). The study area is the Des Moines River Basin, U.S.A. The climate projections are two RCMs driven by two GCMs for historical simulations (1981–2005) and future projections (2030–2050). Bias correction improves historical precipitation for annual volumes, seasonality, spatial distribution, and mean error. Simulated monthly historical streamflow was compared across 26 monitoring stations with mostly satisfactory results for percent bias (Pbias). There were no changes in annual trends for future scenarios except for raw WRF models. Seasonal variability remained the same; however, most models predicted an increase in monthly precipitation from January to March and a reduction for June and July. Meanwhile, the bias-corrected models showed changes in prediction signals. In some cases, raw models projected an increase in surface runoff and water yield, but the bias-corrected models projected a reduction in these variables. This suggests the bias correction may be larger than the climate-change signal and indicates the procedure is not a small correction but a major factor.

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