How does bias correction of RCM precipitation affect modelled runoff?

Teng, J., N.J. Potter, F.H.S. Chiew, L. Zhang, J. Vaze, and J.P. Evans
Hydrology and Earth System Science, 19, 711-728, doi: 10.5194/hess-19-711-2015, 2015.


Many studies bias correct daily precipitation from climate models to match the observed precipitation statistics, and the bias corrected data are then used for various modelling applications. This paper presents a review of recent methods used to bias correct precipitation from regional climate models (RCMs). The paper then assesses four bias correction methods applied to the weather research and forecasting (WRF) model simulated precipitation, and the follow-on impact on modelled runoff for eight catchments in southeast Australia. Overall, the best results are produced by either quantile mapping or a newly proposed two-state gamma distribution mapping method. However, the differences between the methods are small in the modelling experiments here (and as reported in the literature), mainly due to the substantial corrections required and inconsistent errors over time (non-stationarity). The errors in bias corrected precipitation are typically amplified in modelled runoff. The tested methods cannot overcome limitations of the RCM in simulating precipitation sequence, which affects runoff generation. Results further show that whereas bias correction does not seem to alter change signals in precipitation means, it can introduce additional uncertainty to change signals in high precipitation amounts and, consequently, in runoff. Future climate change impact studies need to take this into account when deciding whether to use raw or bias corrected RCM results. Nevertheless, RCMs will continue to improve and will become increasingly useful for hydrological applications as the bias in RCM simulations reduces.

Key Figure

Figure 11. Comparison of CDFs derived from observed, raw RCM and bias-corrected RCM daily precipitation data for one study catchment. The left plot shows calibration results (note that the observed precipitation is completely hidden by QM in this plot) and the right plot shows cross-validation results.

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