Climate Change Sensitivity Assessment on Upper Mississippi River Basin Streamflows Using SWAT

Manoj Jha, Jeffrey G. Arnold, Philip W. Gassman, Roy Gu
January 2004  [04-WP 353]

Download Full Text

Suggested citation:

Jha, M., J. Arnold, P.W. Gassman, and R. Gu. 2004. "Climate Change Sensitivity Assessment on Upper Mississippi River Basin Streamflows Using SWAT." Working paper 04-WP 353. Center for Agricultural and Rural Development, Iowa State University.


The Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) model was used to assess the impacts of potential future climate change on the hydrology of the Upper Mississippi River Basin (UMRB). Calibration and validation of SWAT were performed on a monthly basis for 1968-87 and 1988-97, respectively; R2 and Nash-Sutcliffe simulation efficiency (E) values computed for the monthly comparisons were 0.74 and 0.65 for the calibration period and 0.81 and 0.75 for the validation period. The impacts of eight 20-year (1971-90) scenarios were then analyzed, relative to a scenario baseline. A doubling of atmospheric CO2 concentrations was predicted to result in an average annual flow increase of 35 percent. An average annual flow decrease of 15 percent was estimated for a constant temperature increase of 4°C. Essentially linear impacts were predicted among precipitation change scenarios of -20, -10, 10, and 20 percent, which resulted in average annual flow changes at Grafton, Illinois, of -51, -27, 28, and 58 percent, respectively. The final two scenarios accounted for variable monthly temperature and precipitation changes obtained from a previous climate projection with and without the effects of CO2 doubling. The resultant average annual flows were predicted to increase by 15 and 52 percent in response to these climatic changes. Overall, the results indicate that the UMRB hydrology is very sensitive to potential future climate changes and that these changes could stimulate increased periods of flooding or drought.

Keywords: climate change, flow, hydrology, simulation, spatial patterns, watershed.