May 26, 1994 - May 26, 2027

  • Date:19SundayMay 2024

    Floods in a warming climate: what are the missing puzzle pieces?

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    Sussman Family Building for Environmental Sciences
    M. Magaritz Seminar Room
    Efrat Morin
    The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
    Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences
    AbstractShow full text abstract about Flood is the outcome of complex processes interacting at a r...»
    Flood is the outcome of complex processes interacting at a range of scales. Flood generation and its magnitude depend on different precipitation and surface properties. As the climate becomes warmer globally, precipitation patterns are changing and, consequently, altering flood regimes. Resolving the expected changes in flood properties requires examining projections of precipitation features most correlated with floods. While the redistribution of mean annual precipitation amounts is generally known, the trends in many other essential factors controlling floods are yet to be resolved. For example, flash flood magnitude is sensitive to space-time rainstorm properties such as areal coverage or storm speed. Still, knowledge of how these properties are affected by global warming is lacking. Maximal rain rates for duration relevant to the watershed’s response time are also crucial parameters controlling the flood discharge. There is some understanding of how extreme rain rates change, but the magnitude and sign depend on the rain duration considered. Changes in frequency and the intra-seasonal distribution of precipitation events also affect flood regimes. Finally, watersheds of different properties are sensitive to different precipitation features, and thus, different watersheds may respond differently to global warming. In this talk, we will present the complexity of flood response under global warming and then focus on two questions: 1) how does global warming affect heavy precipitation events (HPEs) in the eastern Mediterranean, and 2) how these effects are imprinted in the resulting floods in small-medium Mediterranean watersheds.
    We simulated 41 eastern Mediterranean HPEs with the high-resolution weather research and forecasting (WRF) model. Each event was simulated twice: under historical conditions and at the end of the 21st-century conditions (RCP8.5 scenario) using the “pseudo global warming” approach. Comparison of precipitation patterns from the paired simulations revealed that heavy precipitation events in our region are expected to become drier and more spatiotemporally concentrated, i.e., we expect higher rain rates on smaller coverage areas and shorter storm durations that, in total, yield lower amounts of rainfall.
    These effects have some contradicting signs, and their full hydrological impact on streamflow peak discharge and volume was further explored. Ensembles of spatially-shifted rainfall data from the simulated HPEs were input to a high-resolution distributed hydrological model (GB-HYDRA) representing four small-medium-size watersheds (18–69 km2) in the eastern Mediterranean (Ramot Menashe). Flow volume is significantly reduced in future HPEs, while the change in flood peak is more complicated due to the combined effect of precipitation amount (decreasing) and precipitation rate (increasing). For the watersheds examined in this research, which are mostly agricultural, flood peaks at the watershed outlets are mostly reduced. The dynamics of flood generation at sub-watersheds of different sizes and properties are further examined in this research to understand scenarios for lowering or increasing flood peaks. This study emphasizes that detecting and quantifying global warming impact on space-time precipitation patterns is essential for flood regime projection.