The impact of future climate variability on the hydrology of the Delaware River Basin

Authors: Timothy Hawkins*, Shippensburg University
Topics: Water Resources and Hydrology, Climatology and Meteorology, Biogeography
Keywords: streamflow, hydrology, evapotranspiration, climate change, Delaware River
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/3/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Stones Throw 1 - Granite, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The Delaware River Basin provides water for over 15 million people for drinking, agriculture, and industrial uses. As part of a larger project to examine the impacts of climate change and land use change on hydrology and forest health, a gridded model was developed to simulate the hydrology of the Delaware River Basin. CMIP5 climate projections, downscaled to 12 km and 800 m resolution, were used to drive the model to assess changes in streamflow and watershed-wide hydrology. Evaluation statistics indicated good model performance. Annual average temperature basin-wide is projected to increase by the end of the century. Correspondingly, snowfall and snowpack are projected to decrease with the greatest changes seen in higher elevation and more northerly locations. A novel technique for more accurately representing potential evapotranspiration was employed and produced increases in potential and therefore also, actual evapotranspiration. Annual total precipitation is projected to increase. Due to warmer conditions and increased evapotranspiration, subsurface moisture is projected to decrease during the warmer months and the time to fully recharge increases and in some cases, never actually occurs. Streamflow, as an integration of all the hydrologic components over the entire basin is projected to increase slightly to moderately by the end of the century. In addition to better understanding the future general hydrology of the Delaware River Basin, results from this project have been applied to help forecast future flood potential and forest ecosystem health for the basin. These applications will be discussed.

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