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Willkofer, Florian; Wood, Raul R.; Ludwig, Ralf (2024): Assessing the impact of climate change on high return levels of peak flows in Bavaria applying the CRCM5 large ensemble. Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, 28 (13). pp. 2969-2989. ISSN 1607-7938

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Severe floods with extreme return periods of 100 years and beyond have been observed in several large rivers in Bavaria in the last 3 decades. Flood protection structures are typically designed based on a 100-year event, relying on statistical extrapolations of relatively short observation time series while ignoring potential temporal non-stationarity. However, future precipitation projections indicate an increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme rainfall events, as well as a shift in seasonality. This study aims to examine the impact of climate change on the 100-year flood (HF100) events of 98 hydrometric gauges within hydrological Bavaria. A hydrological climate change impact (CCI) modeling chain consisting of a regional Single Model Initial-condition Large Ensemble (SMILE) and a single hydrological model was created. The 50 equally probable members of the Canadian Regional Climate Model version 5 large ensemble (CRCM5-LE) were used to drive the hydrological model WaSiM (Water balance Simulation Model) to create a hydro-SMILE. As a result, a database of 1500 model years (50 members × 30 years) per investigated time period was established for extreme value analysis (EVA) to illustrate the benefit of the hydro-SMILE approach for a robust estimation of HF100 based on annual maxima (AM) and to examine the CCI on the frequency and magnitude of HF100 in different discharge regimes under a strong-emission scenario (RCP8.5). The results demonstrate that the hydro-SMILE approach provides a clear advantage for a robust estimation of HF100 using the empirical probability of 1500 AM compared to its estimation using the generalized extreme value (GEV) distribution of 1000 samples of typically available time series sizes of 30, 100, and 200 years. Thereby, by applying the hydro-SMILE framework, the uncertainty from statistical estimation can be reduced. The study highlights the added value of using hydrological SMILEs to project future flood return levels. The CCI of HF100 varies for different flow regimes, with snowmelt-driven catchments experiencing severe increases in frequency and magnitude, leading to unseen extremes that impact the distribution. Pluvial regimes show a lower intensification or even decline. The dynamics of HF100 driving mechanisms depict a decline in snowmelt-driven events in favor of rainfall-driven events, an increase in events driven by convective rainfall, and almost no change in the ratio between single-driver and compound events towards the end of the century.

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