Climate-induced trends in global riverine water discharge and suspended sediment dynamics in the 21st century.

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Date: Aug. 2020
From: Global and Planetary Change(Vol. 191)
Publisher: Elsevier B.V.
Document Type: Report
Length: 430 words

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Abstract :

Keywords 21st century climate change; River discharge; Sediment flux; Global-scale modeling Highlights * Future climate change considerably impacts global river water and sediment fluxes. * Global warming increases the magnitudes and variability of discharge and sediment. * More rivers will experience extreme changes in both variables with climate warming. * Predicted trends in precipitation mainly drive changes in sediment and discharge. Abstract Anthropogenic climate change, particularly through increased greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, is projected to impact 21st century precipitation distribution, altering fluvial processes such as riverine water discharge and sediment dynamics, worldwide. Changes in fluvial water and sediment discharges can have profound impacts on the functioning and connectivity of earth's natural systems. In this paper, we study the natural sensitivity of water discharge and suspended sediment fluxes in large global river systems to predicted climate change in the 21st century. A global-scale hydro-geomorphic model (WBMsed) was forced with precipitation and temperature projections generated by five General Circulation Models (GCMs), each driven by four Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs). Anthropogenic drivers were excluded from the simulations in order to isolate the signal of 21st century climate change. The results, based on an ensemble of model outputs, revealed that global river discharge and sediment dynamics are highly sensitive to anthropogenic climate change in the 21st century. Increasing global warming will lead to more extreme changes and greater rates of changes (increasing or decreasing) in both variables. Despite substantial regional heterogeneity, a global net increase is projected for both natural river discharge and sediment flux toward the end of the 21st century under all climate change scenarios. These increases are larger with increasing levels of atmospheric warming. At the end of this century, projected climate changes under RCP 2.6, 4.5, 6.0 and 8.5 scenarios, will lead to 2%, 6%, 7.5% and 11% increases respectively in mean global river discharge relative to the 1950--2005 period, while mean global suspended sediment flux will show 11%, 15%, 14% and 16.4% increases under pristine conditions. In addition to magnitudes, inter-annual variability also increases with increasing warming. Changes in sediment flux closely follow the patterns predicted for discharge, and are mostly driven by climate warming-induced spatial and temporal variation in precipitation. However, the relationship between precipitation, discharge and sediment flux was found to be non-linear both in space and time, demonstrating the utility of explicit modeling of both hydrology and geomorphology. Author Affiliation: Department of Geography, University of Alabama, Box 870322, Tuscaloosa, AL 35487, USA * Corresponding author. Article History: Received 4 September 2019; Revised 17 April 2020; Accepted 21 April 2020 Byline: Nishani Moragoda [npmoragoda@crimson.ua.edu] (*), Sagy Cohen

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A626117344