The quantification of climate change impacts on hydrology is subjected to multiple uncertainty sources. Large ensembles of hydrological simulations based on multimodel ensembles (MMEs) have been commonly applied to represent overall uncertainty of hydrological impacts. However, as increasing numbers of global climate models (GCMs) are being developed, how many GCMs in MMEs are sufficient to characterize overall uncertainty is not clear. Therefore, this study investigates the influences of GCM quantity on quantifying overall uncertainty and uncertainty contributions of multiple sources in hydrological impacts. Large ensembles of hydrological simulations are obtained through the permutation of 3 greenhouse gas emission scenarios, 22 GCMs, 6 downscaling techniques, 5 hydrological models (HMs), and 5 sets of HM parameters, which enables to decompose uncertainty components using analysis of variance. The influences of GCM quantity are investigated by repeatedly conducting uncertainty decomposition for hydrological simulations from subsets with different numbers of GCMs. The results show that GCMs are the leading uncertainty sources in evaluating changes in annual and peak streamflows, while for changes in low flow, other uncertainty sources except HM parameters also have large contributions to overall uncertainty. Furthermore, on the condition of using no more than five GCMs, there are large possibilities that the overall uncertainty and GCMs' uncertainty contribution are underestimated. Using around 10 GCMs can ensure that the median of different combinations generates similar uncertainty components as the whole ensemble. Therefore, it is recommended to use at least 10 GCMs in studies of climate change impacts on hydrology to thoroughly quantify uncertainty.
This item's license is: Attribution 4.0 International