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Journal Article

Uncertainty of simulated groundwater recharge at different global warming levels: a global-scale multi-model ensemble study


Reinecke,  Robert
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Müller Schmied,  Hannes
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Trautmann,  Tim
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Andersen,  Lauren
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research;

Burek,  Peter
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Flörke,  Martina
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Gosling,  Simon N.
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Grillakis,  Manolis
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Hanasaki,  Naota
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Koutroulis,  Aristeidis
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Pokhrel,  Yadu
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Thiery,  Wim
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Wada,  Yoshihide
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Yusuke,  Satoh
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Döll,  Petra
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Reinecke, R., Müller Schmied, H., Trautmann, T., Andersen, L., Burek, P., Flörke, M., Gosling, S. N., Grillakis, M., Hanasaki, N., Koutroulis, A., Pokhrel, Y., Thiery, W., Wada, Y., Yusuke, S., Döll, P. (2021): Uncertainty of simulated groundwater recharge at different global warming levels: a global-scale multi-model ensemble study. - Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, 25, 2, 787-810.

Cite as: https://publications.pik-potsdam.de/pubman/item/item_25276
Billions of people rely on groundwater as an accessible source for drinking water and irrigation, especially in times of drought. Its importance will likely increase with a changing climate. It is still unclear, however, how climate change will impact groundwater systems globally and thus the availability of this vital resource. This study investigates uncertainties in groundwater recharge projections using a multi-model ensemble of eight global hydrological models (GHMs) that are driven by the bias-adjusted output of four global circulation models (GCMs). Preindustrial and current groundwater recharge values are compared with recharge for different global warming (GW) levels as a result of three representative concentration pathways (RCPs). Results suggest that the uncertainty range is extensive, and projections with confidence can only be made for specific regions of the world. In some regions, reversals of groundwater recharge trends can be observed with global warming. On average, a consistent median increase of groundwater recharge in northern Europe of 19 % and a decrease of 10 % in the Amazon at 3 °C GW compared to preindustrial levels are simulated. In the Mediterranean, a 2 °C GW leads to a reduction of GWR of 38 %. Because most GHMs do not include CO2 driven vegetation processes, we investigate how, including the effect of evolving CO2 concentrations into the calculation of future groundwater recharge impacts the results. In some regions, the inclusion of these processes leads to differences in groundwater recharge changes of up to 100 mm year−1. Overall, models that include CO2 driven vegetation processes simulate less severe decreases of groundwater recharge and in some regions even increases instead of decreases. In regions where GCMs predict decreases in precipitation, and groundwater availability is most important, the model agreement among GHMs with dynamic vegetation is lowest in contrast to GHMs without, which show a high agreement.