Energy budget considerations for hydro-climatic impact assessment in Great Lakes watersheds

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© 2014 Elsevier B.V. Given the large share of the water budget contributed by evapotranspiration (ET), accurately estimating ET is critical for hydro-climate change studies. Routinely, hydrologic models use temperature proxy relationships to estimate potential evapotranspiration (PET) when forced using GCM/RCM projections of precipitation and temperature. A limitation of this approach is that the temperature proxy relationships do not account for the conservation of energy needed to estimate ET consistently in climate change scenarios. In particular, PET methods using temperature as a proxy fail to account for the negative feedback of ET on surface temperature. Using several GCM projections and a hydrologic model developed for the Great Lakes basin watersheds, the NOAA Large Basin Runoff Model (LBRM), the importance of maintaining a consistent energy budget in hydrologic and climate models is demonstrated by comparing runoff projections from temperature proxy and energy conservation methods. Differences in hydrologic responses are related to watershed characteristics, hydrologic model parameters and climate variables. It is shown that the temperature proxy approach consistently leads to prediction of relatively large and potentially unrealistic reductions in runoff. Therefore, hydrologic projections adhering to energy conservation principles are recommended for use in climate change impact studies.

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Journal of Great Lakes Research