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Climate 2016, 4(4), 56; doi:10.3390/cli4040056

Climate Change Impacts on the Hydrological Processes of a Small Agricultural Watershed

1
Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47906, USA
2
Texas Institute for Applied Environmental Research (TIAER), Tarleton State University, Stephenville, TX 76402, USA
3
Department of Plant Science, South Dakota State University, Brookings, SD 57007, USA
4
Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering, South Dakota State University, Brookings, SD 57007, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Daniele Bocchiola, Claudio Cassardo and Guglielmina Diolaiuti
Received: 23 June 2016 / Revised: 1 November 2016 / Accepted: 8 November 2016 / Published: 17 November 2016
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Impact of Climate Change on Water Resources)
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Abstract

Weather extremes and climate variability directly impact the hydrological cycle influencing agricultural productivity. The issues related to climate change are of prime concern for every nation as its implications are posing negative impacts on society. In this study, we used three climate change scenarios to simulate the impact on local hydrology of a small agricultural watershed. The three emission scenarios from the Special Report on Emission Scenarios, of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2007 analyzed in this study were A2 (high emission), A1B (medium emission), and B1 (low emission). A process based hydrologic model SWAT (Soil and Water Assessment Tool) was calibrated and validated for the Skunk Creek Watershed located in eastern South Dakota. The model performance coefficients revealed a strong correlation between simulated and observed stream flow at both monthly and daily time step. The Nash Sutcliffe Efficiency for monthly model performace was 0.87 for the calibration period and 0.76 for validation period. The future climate scenarios were built for the mid-21st century time period ranging from 2046 to 2065. The future climate data analysis showed an increase in temperatures between 2.2 °C to 3.3 °C and a decrease in precipitation from 1.8% to 4.5% expected under three different climate change scenarios. A sharp decline in stream flow (95.92%–96.32%), run-off (83.46%–87.00%), total water yield (90.67%–91.60%), soil water storage (89.99%–92.47%), and seasonal snow melt (37.64%–43.06%) are predicted to occur by the mid-21st century. In addition, an increase in evapotranspirative losses (2%–3%) is expected to occur within the watershed when compared with the baseline period. Overall, these results indicate that the watershed is highly susceptible to hydrological and agricultural drought due to limited water availability. These results are limited to the available climate projections, and future refinement in projected climatic change data, at a finer regional scale would provide greater clarity. Nevertheless, models like SWAT are excellent means to test best management practices to mitigate the projected dry conditions in small agricultural waterhseds. View Full-Text
Keywords: climate change; SWAT; SRES scenarios; dry conditions; mitigation climate change; SWAT; SRES scenarios; dry conditions; mitigation
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Mehan, S.; Kannan, N.; Neupane, R.P.; McDaniel, R.; Kumar, S. Climate Change Impacts on the Hydrological Processes of a Small Agricultural Watershed. Climate 2016, 4, 56.

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