Meteorological Impacts on Streamflow: Analyzing Anthropogenic Climate Change's Effect on Runoff and Streamflow Magnitudes in Virginia's Chesapeake Bay Watershed

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Virginia Tech


Anthropogenic climate change will impact Virginia's hydrologic processes in unforeseen ways in the coming decades. This research describes variability in meteorology (temperature and precipitation) and associated hydrologic processes (evapotranspiration) throughout an ensemble of 31 general circulation models (GCMs) used by the Chesapeake Bay Program (CBP). Trends are compared with surface runoff generation patterns for a variety of land uses to investigate climate's effect on runoff generation. Scenarios representing pairings of the tenth, fiftieth, and ninetieth percentiles of precipitation and temperature in the CBP 31-model ensemble were run through VADEQ's VA Hydro hydrologic model to investigate streamflow's response to climate. Temperature changes across the study area were minimized in the tenth percentile scenario (+1.02 to +1.24◦C) and maximized in the ninetieth (+2.20 to +3.02◦C), with evapotranspiration change following this trend (tenth: +2.84 to +3.81%; ninetieth: +6.53 to +10.2%). Precipitation change ranged from -10.9 to -7.30% in the tenth to +22.1 to +28.0% in the ninetieth. Runoff per unit area was largely dependent on land use, with the most extreme changes in runoff often seen in forested and natural land uses (-24% in tenth; +53% in ninetieth) and the least extreme seen in impervious and feeding space land(tenth: -11%; ninetieth: +30%). Both overall runoff per unit area and streamflow changed drastically from the base in the tenth (-20.4% to -25.9% change in median runoff; -19.8% to -27.1% change in median streamflow) and ninetieth (+30.4% to +53.7% change in median runoff; +33.0% to +77.8% change in median streamflow) percentile scenarios.



hydrologic modeling, water supply, climate modeling, land use runoff, streamflow