The impacts of climatic change and variability on water resources in Yorkshire
“In the light of the 1995-96 drought, a reappraisal of the water demand/resources balance in the North West and elsewhere across the country is needed in order to ascertain whether long-term water resources plans are adequate and resilient”
Observational evidence and future climate change scenarios suggest an amplification of climatic contrasts across the UK. This is seen most prominently in the marked increase in notable flood events and drought episodes and may profoundly affect water resource systems in vulnerable areas, as exemplified by the 1995 Yorkshire drought. The 1995-96 drought resulted in severe stress to the Yorkshire water supply, necessitating the emergency measure of tanking in water from outside the region, and was caused by an unusual pattern of weather and precipitation. This research is an investigation into both natural climatic variability and possible future climate change in Yorkshire aiming to quantify the risk of future occurrence of severe drought events, such as that of 1995.
Historical drought characteristics and spatial-temporal precipitation variability in Yorkshire are examined and linked to synoptic weather patterns. A multi-site stochastic rainfall model is then developed using conditioning by synoptic weather types. The model can account for spatial variability and allows the concurrent simulation of precipitation time-series for very different climatological sub-regions within the same water resource area. This model is used to investigate the impact of natural climatic variability and possible future climate change upon water resource reliability, resilience and vulnerability in Yorkshire.
The structure of the stochastic rainfall model enables the impact of variations in weather type persistence or frequency to be investigated. In addition, rainfall model statistics can be altered to simulate instances of increased precipitation intensity or proportion dry days for example, for individual weather groups. The UKCIP98 Medium-High climate change scenarios for 2021-2050 and 2051-2080 are investigated using modifications to weather type frequency, precipitation and potential evapotranspiration.
Results indicate that water resources in Yorkshire are likely to become more reliable on average under the examined climate change scenarios due to increased winter precipitation. However, model simulations also suggest a reduction in resource resilience and increased vulnerability to drought. Severe droughts comparable to that of 1995 show only a slight increase in frequency by 2080. However, there will be a significant increase in both magnitude and duration of severe drought, as a consequence of summer precipitation reductions and increased climatic variability.
This methodology of simulating the impacts of potential atmospheric circulation change on precipitation regimes can provide a basis for the future planning and management of water resource systems.