Continuous prediction of clay‐bed stream erosion in response to climate model output for a small urban watershed

Continuous prediction of clay‐bed stream erosion in response to climate model output for a small urban watershed

Brennan, C. P., Parsapour‐Moghaddam, P., Rennie, C. D., & Seidou, O. (2018). Continuous prediction of clay‐bed stream erosion in response to climate model output for a small urban watershed. Hydrological Processes, 32(8), 1104-1119.

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The response of the semi‐alluvial clay‐bed Watts Creek is assessed subject to climate change. Climate impacts are expected to have regional variability, and few studies have assessed the impacts of future climate in a small urban watershed. The 21‐km2 watershed located in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, is highly urbanized (68%) and agricultural (20%) with limited forest cover (12%). Continuous simulations were performed using the SWMHYMO lumped hydrologic modelling platform for the open water year, excluding spring freshet (April 1 to October 31). A shear stress exceedance and stream power erosion routine was added to the platform to calculate erosion potential. To account for uncertainty in the collected data, 9 different field datasets were used to calibrate the model, each leading to a distinct set of calibrated parameter values. The difference between the datasets lies in the choice of the rating curves and calibration period. The 2041–2080 precipitation outputs of the 4th version of the Canadian Regional Climate Model (CanRCM4) ran under representative concentration pathways (RCPs) 4.5 and 8.5 at the MacDonald Cartier International Airport were downscaled using quantile matching and then used as input to the continuous hydrologic model. For each set of calibrated parameters, a cumulative effective work index based on the reach‐averaged shear stress was calculated for Watts Creek using both the historic (1967–2007) and projected future (2041–2080) flows, using a bed material critical shear stress for entrainment of 3.7 Pa. These results suggest an increase of 75% (respectively 139%) under RCP4.5 (respectively RCP8.5) in cumulative effective work index compared with historic conditions for the average measured bed strength. The work index increase is driven by an increased occurrence of above‐threshold events and, more importantly, by the increased frequency of large events. The predicted flow regime under climate change would significantly alter the erosion potential and stability of Watts Creek.