Future Flows and Groundwater Levels
Climate change will increase temperatures and change rainfall across England, Wales and Scotland. In turn, this will modify patterns of river flow and groundwater recharge, affecting the availability of water and changing the aquatic environment. There have been many studies of the impact of climate change on river flows in different parts of the UK, but coverage is uneven and methods vary. This means it is very difficult to compare different locations, and so identify appropriate adaptation responses.
Future Flows and Groundwater Levels project
The Future Flows and Groundwater Levels (FFGWL) project has addressed these issues by carrying out for the first time a consistent assessment of the impact of climate change on river flows and groundwater levels across England, Wales and Scotland using the latest projections from the UK Climate Impact Programme (UKCIP), including the UKCP09 probabilistic climate projections from the Met Office Hadley Centre.
FFGWL developed two unique datasets for Great Britain, both made available to the public under specific licensing conditions:
Future Flows Climate and Future Flows Hydrology represent a nationally consistent ensemble of 11 plausible realisations (all equally likely) of nearly 150 years of climate, river flow and groundwater regime. They enable us to investigate the role of climate variability on river flow and groundwater levels nationally and how this may change in the future. Some climate change uncertainty is accounted for by considering all ensemble members together.
The Future Flows Project was a partnership project co-funded by the Environment Agency of England and Wales, Defra, UK Water Industry Research, the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, the British Geological Survey and Wallingford Hydrosolutions.
Products and datasets
Four FFGWL products have been made publicly available under specific licensing conditions:
Map of percentage changes in winter (DJF) mean river flow for the 2050s as simulated by the hydrological model CERF with each of the Future Flows Climate members using the SRES A1B emission scenarios: from top left - a HadRM3Q0 (unperturbed, run afgcx); b HadRM3Q3 (run afixa); c HadRM3Q4 (run afixc); d HadRM3Q6 (run afixh); e HadRM3Q9 (run afixi); f HadRM3Q8 (run afixj); g HadRM3Q10 (run afixk); h HadRM3Q14 (run afixl); i HadRM3Q11 (run afixm); j HadRM3Q13 (run afixo); k HadRM3Q16 (run afixq)
More information and downloads are available in Future Flows Products and Datasets.
To capture the range of climate, land use, geological and geographical characteristics found in England, Wales and Scotland, the project modelled a total of 282 river catchments and 24 boreholes. For details of the sites involved and the data, please see Future Flows sites.
Possible uses for FFGWL products and datasets include:
FFGWL has used the latest climate change projections available from the UKCIP for UK climate change impact assessment. In particular, FFGWL exploited the following UKCP09 products to assess changes in river flows and groundwater levels across England, Scotland and Wales.
Bias correction and downscaling
Climate projections generated from Global or Regional Climate Models (RCM) are not suitable for direct use in hydrological models because of differences in scale between modelled atmospheric processes and hydrological processes. Based on the latest scientific knowledge of how to exploit RCM outputs in hydrology, a bias-correction and downscaling procedure was implemented nationally over Britain to generate Future Flows Climate.
The range of river sites for which FFGWL has generated transient projections necessitated the use of different hydrological and groundwater models. Three types of hydrological and groundwater models were used in FFGWL:
The advantage of the regionalised parameter model is that it extends the climate range under which the model parameters are evaluated; this is particularly important in a warming climate for catchments where it is possible that evaporation processes might be water-limited. The advantage of catchment calibrated models is that they are designed to reproduce the best local hydrological processes.
The FFGWL project ran between March 2010 and Spring 2012.