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Modeling variable river flow velocity on continental scale: Current situation and climate change impacts in Europe

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Verzano, K., Bärlund, I., Flörke, M., Lehner, B., Kynast, E., Voß, F., et al. (2012). Modeling variable river flow velocity on continental scale: Current situation and climate change impacts in Europe. Journal of Hydrology, 424-425, 238-251. doi:10.1016/j.jhydrol.2012.01.005.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0001-5FD9-1
Summary This paper introduces an approach to route discharge with a variable river flow velocity based on the Manning–Strickler formula within large scale hydrological models. The approach has been developed for the global scale hydrological model WaterGAP and model results have been analyzed focusing on Europe. The goal was to find a method that is simple enough to derive the required parameters from globally available data while being sophisticated enough to deliver realistic flow velocity estimates for a large variety of environmental conditions. The river bed roughness (Manning’s n) is approximated in a spatially explicit way based on topography, the location of urban population, and river sinuosity. The hydraulic radius is estimated from actual river discharge, and river bed slope is derived by combining a high resolution DEM, a 5arc min drainage direction map, and river sinuosity. The modeled river flow velocity has been validated against data of US gauging stations. The representation of lateral transport has clearly been improved compared to the constant flow velocity applied in older model versions. The effect of incorporating variable flow velocities as compared to a constant flow velocity is largest on flood discharge, which generally increases in large rivers. The impact on monthly discharge hydrographs is marginal only. WaterGAP has been driven by three climate change projections for the 2050s to assess climate change impacts on flow velocity, and on the residence time of water in the European river system. Results indicate a decrease in residence times for Northern Europe and an increase for parts of the Mediterranean.