Downscaling future climate scenarios to fine scales for hydrologic and ecological modeling and analysis

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Flint, Lorraine E. and Flint, Alan L.
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Introduction: Evaluating the environmental impacts of climate change on water resources and biological components of the landscape is an integral part of hydrologic and ecological investigations, and the resultant land and resource management in the twenty-first century. Impacts of both climate and simulated hydrologic parameters on ecological processes are relevant at scales that reflect the heterogeneity and complexity of landscapes. At present, simulations of climate change available from global climate models [GCMs] require downscaling for hydrologic or ecological applications.

Methods: Using statistically downscaled future climate projections developed using constructed analogues, a methodology was developed to further downscale the projections spatially using a gradient-inverse-distance squared approach for application to hydrologic modeling at 270-m spatial resolution.

Results: This paper illustrates a methodology to downscale and bias-correct national GCMs to subkilometer scales that are applicable to fine-scale environmental processes. Four scenarios were chosen to bracket the range of future emissions put forth by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Fine-scale applications of downscaled datasets of ecological and hydrologic correlations to variation in climate are illustrated.

Conclusions: The methodology, which includes a sequence of rigorous analyses and calculations, is intended to reduce the addition of uncertainty to the climate data as a result of the downscaling while providing the fine-scale climate information necessary for ecological analyses. It results in new but consistent data sets for the US at 4 km, the southwest US at 270 m, and California at 90 m and illustrates the utility of fine-scale downscaling to analyses of ecological processes influenced by topographic complexity.


Flint, L. E., and A. L. Flint. 2012. Downscaling future climate scenarios to fine scales for hydrologic and ecological modeling and analysis. Ecological Processes 1. Retrieved from