Improving pan-European hydrological simulation of extreme events through statistical bias correction of RCM-driven climate simulations
In this work we asses the benefits of removing bias in climate forcing data used for hydrological climate change impact assessment at pan-European scale, with emphasis on floods. Climate simulations from the HIRHAM5-ECHAM5 model driven by the SRES-A1B emission scenario are corrected for bias using a histogram equalization method. As target for the bias correction we employ gridded interpolated observations of precipitation, average, minimum, and maximum temperature from the E-OBS data set. Bias removal transfer functions are derived for the control period 1961–1990. These are subsequently used to correct the climate simulations for the control period, and, under the assumption of a stationary error model, for the future time window 2071–2100. Validation against E-OBS climatology in the control period shows that the correction method performs successfully in removing bias in average and extreme statistics relevant for flood simulation over the majority of the European domain in all seasons. This translates into considerably improved simulations with the hydrological model of observed average and extreme river discharges at a majority of 554 validation river stations across Europe. Probabilities of extreme events derived employing extreme value techniques are also more closely reproduced. Results indicate that projections of future flood hazard in Europe based on uncorrected climate simulations, both in terms of their magnitude and recurrence interval, are likely subject to large errors. Notwithstanding the inherent limitations of the large-scale approach used herein, this study strongly advocates the removal of bias in climate simulations prior to their use in hydrological impact assessment.