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Effect of Climate Change on Low-Flow Conditions in the Ruscom River Watershed, Ontario

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan www.asabe.org

Citation:  Transactions of the ASABE. 53(5): 1521-1532. (doi: 10.13031/2013.34904) @2010
Authors:   M. Rahman, T. Bolisetti, R. Balachandar
Keywords:   Climate change, Low flow, Model, RCM, Streamflow, SWAT, Watershed

The objective of the present study is to explore and project the effect of climate change on the low flows from the Ruscom River watershed in Ontario, Canada. The watershed is one of the subwatersheds draining into Lake St. Clair on the Canadian side of the Great Lakes system. The Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) model was implemented to simulate the hydrologic regime in the watershed. SWAT was calibrated and validated for the streamflow from the Ruscom River watershed using the observed monthly flow data. The LARS-WG weather generator was used for the generation of daily future weather data at local scale using the Canadian Regional Climate Model (CRCM) outputs under the SRES A2 scenario for the period 2041-2070. The Nash-Sutcliffe efficiency (NSE) and coefficient of determination (r2) for streamflow predictions using SWAT were found to be greater than 0.74. Under the projected climate scenario, the future mean monthly minimum and maximum temperatures by the year 2070 may be increased by 3.2C and 3.6C, respectively, compared to the temperatures in the base period (1961-1990). The average annual precipitation would also increase by 8%. SWAT-simulated flow duration curves indicated that low flows in the Ruscom River would be increased in spring but decreased in summer and fall due to the possible climate change conditions. Based on the frequency analysis, the annual minimum monthly flow of five-year return period could be reduced by as much as 50%.

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