Quantifying uncertainty in the modelling process; future extreme flood event projections across the UK

Cameron Ellis*, Annie Visser-Quinn, Gordon Aitken, Lindsay Beevers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

With evidence suggesting that climate change is resulting in changes within the hydrologic cycle, the ability to robustly model hydroclimatic response is critical. This paper assesses how extreme runoff—1:2-and 1:30-year return period (RP) events—may change at a regional level across the UK by the 2080s (2069–2098). Capturing uncertainty in the hydroclimatic modelling chain, flow projections were extracted from the EDgE (End-to-end Demonstrator for improved decision-making in the water sector in Europe) multi-model ensemble: five Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) General Circulation Models and four hydrological models forced under emissions scenarios Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP) 2.6 and RCP 8.5 (5 × 4 × 2 chains). Uncertainty in extreme value parameterisation was captured through consideration of two methods: generalised extreme value (GEV) and generalised logistic (GL). The method was applied across 192 catchments and aggregated to eight regions. The results suggest that, by the 2080s, many regions could experience large increases in extreme runoff, with a maximum mean change signal of +34% exhibited in East Scotland (1:2-year RP). Combined with increasing urbanisation, these estimates paint a concerning picture for the future UK flood landscape. Model chain uncertainty was found to increase by the 2080s, though extreme value (EV) parameter uncertainty becomes dominant at the 1:30-year RP (exceeding 60% in some regions), highlighting the importance of capturing both the associated EV parameter and ensemble uncertainty.

Original languageEnglish
Article number33
Pages (from-to)1-20
Number of pages20
JournalGeosciences (Switzerland)
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jan 2021

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Climate change
  • Extreme value distribution
  • Flood events
  • Generalised extreme value
  • Generalised logistic
  • Multi-model ensemble
  • Projections
  • Uncertainty propagation


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