Quantifying Hydrological Impacts of Climate Change Uncertainties on a Watershed in Northern Virginia

TR Number



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



Forecasted changes to climate were used to model variations in the streamflow characteristics of a northern Virginia catchment. Two emission scenarios were applied from international climate projections along with four general circulation models (GCMs) by using two statistical downscaling methods to drive the hydrological simulations in two future time periods (2046-2065 and 2081-2100). Incorporation of these factors yielded 32 runoff simulation models for a 130-km(2) watershed located in northern Virginia. These models were compared with historical streamflow data from the late 20th century. Changes in streamflow were compared using median, low, and high flows. Results showed a general increase in median flows in both the mid- and late 21st century. Low flows were projected to decrease, whereas high flows were projected to increase, creating a larger range between low flows and high flows. In addition, statistical tests were conducted to identify the main factors that affected variations in future climate projections. The choice of the downscaling method emerged as the main source of uncertainty. This research quantifies the impacts of climate change as well as uncertainties within climate change projections for regional water resources. Considering the essential role of this watershed for water supply in northern Virginia, the findings of this study illustrate likely impacts of climate change on water supply reliability, supporting climate resiliency in the study area. (C) 2019 American Society of Civil Engineers.



Climate change, Hydrological impact, Scenario development, Water supply, Water resources management