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Understanding the influence of “hot” models in climate impact studies: A hydrological perspective


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Asenjan, Mehrad Rahimpour, Brissette, François, Martel, Jean-Luc and Arsenault, Richard. 2023. « Understanding the influence of “hot” models in climate impact studies: A hydrological perspective ». Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, vol. 27, nº 23. pp. 4355-4367.

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Efficient adaptation strategies to climate change require the estimation of future impacts and the uncertainty surrounding this estimation. Over- or underestimating future uncertainty may lead to maladaptation. Hydrological impact studies typically use a top-down approach in which multiple climate models are used to assess the uncertainty related to the climate model structure and climate sensitivity. Despite ongoing debate, impact modelers have typically embraced the concept of “model democracy”, in which each climate model is considered equally fit. The newer Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 6 (CMIP6) simulations, with several models showing a climate sensitivity larger than that of Phase 5 (CMIP5) and larger than the likely range based on past climate information and understanding of planetary physics, have reignited the model democracy debate. Some have suggested that “hot” models be removed from impact studies to avoid skewing impact results toward unlikely futures. Indeed, the inclusion of these models in impact studies carries a significant risk of overestimating the impact of climate change. This large-sample study looks at the impact of removing hot models on the projections of future streamflow over 3107 North American catchments. More precisely, the variability in future projections of mean, high, and low flows is evaluated using an ensemble of 19 CMIP6 general circulation models (GCMs), 5 of which are deemed hot based on their global equilibrium climate sensitivity (ECS). The results show that the reduced ensemble of 14 climate models provides streamflow projections with reduced future variability for Canada, Alaska, the Southeast US, and along the Pacific coast. Elsewhere, the reduced ensemble has either no impact or results in increased variability in future streamflow, indicating that global outlier climate models do not necessarily provide regional outlier projections of future impacts. These results emphasize the delicate nature of climate model selection, especially based on global fitness metrics that may not be appropriate for local and regional assessments.

Item Type: Peer reviewed article published in a journal
Brissette, François
Martel, Jean-Luc
Arsenault, Richard
Affiliation: Génie de la construction, Génie de la construction, Génie de la construction
Date Deposited: 12 Jan 2024 14:51
Last Modified: 06 Feb 2024 19:33

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