Potential effects of climate change on inundation patterns in the Amazon Basin

Langerwisch, F.; Rost, S.; Gerten, D.; Poulter, B.; Rammig, A.; Cramer, W.
January 2012
Hydrology & Earth System Sciences Discussions;2012, Vol. 9 Issue 1, p261
Academic Journal
A key factor for the functioning and diversity of Amazonian rain forests is annual flooding. However, increasing air temperature and higher precipitation variability, caused by climate change, are expected to shift the flooding regime, and thereby negatively impact floodplain ecosystems, their biodiversity and riverine ecosystem services during this century. To assess the effects of climate changes on the flooding regime, we use the Dynamic Global Vegetation and Hydrology Model LPJmL, enhanced by a scheme that realistically simulates floodable area and inundation. Regarding hydrograph and inundation area, simulation results under contemporary conditions compare well against observations. The changes of calculated river discharge and inundation, under climate change projections from 24 IPCC AR4 climate models, differ regionally towards the end of the 21st century. Flooded area increases in about one third of the basin, with a probability larger than 70%. Inundation duration increases dramatically by on average three months in Western and around one month in Eastern Amazonia. The time of high- and low-water-peak shifts by up to three months. We find a slight decrease in the number of extremely dry years as well as a decrease of the probability of the occurrence of three consecutive extremely dry years. The total number of extremely wet years does not change drastically but the probability of three consecutive extremely wet years decreases by up to 30% in the East and increases by up to 25% in the West. These changes implicate significant shifts in regional vegetation and climate, and will dramatically alter carbon and water cycles.


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