Potential climate change impacts on hydrologic regimes in northeast Kansas



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Kansas State University


The Great Plains once encompassed 160 million hectares of grassland in the central United States. In the last several decades, conversion of grassland to urban and agricultural production areas has caused significant increases in runoff and erosion. Past attempts to slow this hydrologic system degradation have shown success, but climate change could once again significantly alter the hydrology. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) studies the state of knowledge pertaining to climate change. The IPCC has developed four possible future scenarios (A1, A2, B1 and B2). The output temperature and precipitation data for Northeast Kansas from fifteen A2 General Circulation Models (GCMs) were analyzed in this study. This analysis showed that future temperature increases are consistent among the GCMs. On the other hand, precipitation projections varied greatly among GCMs both on annual and monthly scales. It is clear that the results of a hydrologic study will vary depending on which GCM is used to generate future climate data. To overcome this difficulty, a way to take all GCMs into account in a hydrologic analysis is needed. Separate methods were used to develop three groups of scenarios from the output of fifteen A2 GCMs. Using a stochastic weather generator, WINDS, monthly adjustments for future temperature and precipitation were applied to actual statistics from the 1961 – 1990 to generate 105 years of data for each climate scenario. The SWAT model was used to simulate watershed processes for each scenario. The streamflow output was analyzed with the Indicators of Hydrologic Alteration program, which calculated multiple hydrologic indices that were then compared back to a baseline scenario. This analysis showed that large changes in projected annual precipitation caused significant hydrologic alteration. Similar alterations were obtained using scenarios with minimal annual precipitation change. This was accomplished with seasonal shifts in precipitation, or by significantly increasing annual temperature. One scenario showing an increase in spring precipitation accompanied by a decrease in summer precipitation caused an increase in both flood and drought events for the study area. The results of this study show that climate change has the potential to alter hydrologic regimes in Northeast Kansas.



Climate change, Hydrologic model, GCM, SWAT, Weather generator

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Master of Science


Department of Biological & Agricultural Engineering

Major Professor

Kyle R. Douglas-Mankin