CR 09:147-155 (1997)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/cr009147

Climate change impacts on the hydrologic resources of South America: an annual, continental scale assessment

David N. Yates*

National Center for Atmospheric Research, PO Box 3000, Boulder, Colorado 80301, USA

Two empirical annual runoff models which represent point estimates of river basin discharge were used for assessing the potential impact of climate change on runoff over South America. The first model is an annual regression relationship which relates temperature and precipitation to basin discharge. The second relationship is based on observed climatological variables and relates annual precipitation and potential evapotranspiration to runoff. A Geographic Information System (GIS) was used to implement these annual models in order to assess runoff on a 0.5° × 0.5° grid over South America using mean annual temperature, precipitation, and computed potential evapotranspiration images. Annual changes in precipitation (percent change) and temperature (absolute change) were gathered from 4 Global Circulation Models (GCMs) and were used to derive new runoff estimates. Generally, these climate change scenarios consistently showed increases in runoff over the northwest and southern regions of South America, while the central and northeast regions were a mixture of increases and decreases depending on the GCM scenario. Comparisons with detailed, basin level models with shorter time-steps are necessary to validate the use of these annual approaches for continental scale assessment.


Climate change · Water resources · Runoff · Annual models · South America


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