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A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z 0-9

Climate change and global water resources

Author: Nigel W. Arnell
Organisation: Global Environmental Change 9 (1999) S31-S49
Publish Date: June 1999
Country: Global
Sector: Environment
Method: Scenarios
Theme: Climate Change
Type: Other publication
Language: English
Tags: Climate change, Global water resources, Global runo!, Hydrological impacts of climate change, Scenarios, water

By 2025, it is estimated that around 5 billion people, out of a total population of around 8 billion, will be living in countries experiencing water stress (using more than 20% of their available resources). Climate change has the potential to impose additional pressures in some regions. This paper describes an assessment of the implications of climate change for global hydrological regimes and water resources. It uses climate change scenarios developed from Hadley Centre climate simulations (HadCM2 and HadCM3), and simulates global riverflows at a spatial resolution of 0.5]0.53 using a macro-scale hydrological model. Changes in national water resources are calculated, including both internally generated runo! and upstream imports, and compared with national water use estimates developed for the United Nations Comprehensive Assessment of the Freshwater Resources of the World. Although there is variation between scenarios, the results suggest that average annual runo! will increase in high latitudes, in equatorial Africa and Asia, and southeast Asia, and will decrease in mid-latitudes and most subtropical regions. The HadCM3 scenario produces changes in runo! which are often similar to those from the HadCM2 scenarios * but there are important regional differences. The rise in temperature associated with climate change leads to a general reduction in the proportion of precipitation falling as snow, and a consequent reduction in many areas in the duration of snow cover. This has implications for the timing of streamflow in such regions, with a shift from spring snow melt to winter runo!. Under the HadCM2 ensemble mean scenario, the number of people living in countries with water stress would increase by 53 million by 2025 (relative to those who would be affected in the absence of climate change). Under the HadCM3 scenario, the number of people living in countries with water stress would rise by 113 million. However, by 2050 there would be a net reduction in populations in stressed countries under HadCM2 (of around 69 million), but an increase of 56 million under HadCM3. The study also showed that different indications of the impact of climate change on water resource stresses could be obtained using different projections of future water use. The paper emphasises the large range between estimates of “impact”, and also discusses the problems associated with the scale of analysis and the definition of indices of water resource impact.
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