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The influence of model structure on groundwater recharge rates in climate-change impact studies

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Author Moeck C. , Brunner P. , Hunkeler D. ,
Project Groundwater resources under changing climatic conditions
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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Hydrogeology Journal
Volume (Issue) 24(5)
Page(s) 1171 - 1184
Title of proceedings Hydrogeology Journal
DOI 10.1007/s10040-016-1367-1


Numerous modeling approaches are available to provide insight into the relationship between climate change and groundwater recharge. However, several aspects of how hydrological model choice and structure affect recharge predictions have not been fully explored, unlike the well-established variability of climate model chains—combination of global climate models (GCM) and regional climate models (RCM). Furthermore, the influence on predictions related to subsoil parameterization and the variability of observation data employed during calibration remain unclear. This paper compares and quantifies these different sources of uncertainty in a systematic way. The described numerical experiment is based on a heterogeneous two-dimensional reference model. Four simpler models were calibrated against the output of the reference model, and recharge predictions of both reference and simpler models were compared to evaluate the effect of model structure on climate-change impact studies. The results highlight that model simplification leads to different recharge rates under climate change, especially under extreme conditions, although the different models performed similarly under historical climate conditions. Extreme weather conditions lead to model bias in the predictions and therefore must be considered. Consequently, the chosen calibration strategy is quite important and, if possible, the calibration data set should include climatic extremes in order to minimise model bias introduced by the calibration. The results strongly suggest that ensembles of climate projections should be coupled with ensembles of hydrogeological models to produce credible predictions of future recharge and with the associated uncertainties.