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Dry getting drier − the future of transnational river basins in Iberia

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Selma GuerreiroORCiD, Dr Stephen Birkinshaw, Professor Chris Kilsby, Professor Hayley Fowler, Dr Elizabeth Lewis



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


© 2017 Study region Main international rivers of Iberia (SW Europe): Douro, Tagus and Guadiana. Study focus Iberia has long suffered from water scarcity which will worsen with projected reductions in rainfall and increases in temperature. Nonetheless, there has been almost no research concerning the future discharges of these rivers. We examine an ensemble of climate model projections from CMIP5 RCP 8.5 and use two downscaling methods to produce a range of changes in discharge using a physically-based, spatially-distributed hydrological model (SHETRAN) for historical (1961–1990) and future (2040–2070) periods. New hydrological insights for the region There is uncertainty in the sign of change in high (winter) discharges but most model runs show decreases in monthly, seasonal and annual discharges for all basins; especially for medium and low discharges, with all but one run showing future decreases. The magnitude of these decreases varies significantly for different CMIP5 ensemble members. However, autumn shows the biggest decreases (reaching −61% for the Douro, −71% in the Tagus, and −92% for the Guadiana) and the reductions are consistently larger for the Guadiana. This is the first study to explore a wide range of possible futures for these international basins. We show that, despite uncertainties in model projections, there is common behavior with reductions in mean and especially in low discharges which will have important implications for water resources, populations, ecology and agriculture.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Guerreiro SB, Birkinshaw S, Kilsby C, Fowler HJ, Lewis E

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Hydrology: Regional Studies

Year: 2017

Volume: 12

Pages: 238-252

Print publication date: 01/08/2017

Online publication date: 07/06/2017

Acceptance date: 26/05/2017

Date deposited: 28/09/2017

ISSN (print): 2214-5818

Publisher: Elsevier B.V.


DOI: 10.1016/j.ejrh.2017.05.009


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Funder referenceFunder name
NE/H003517/1Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)