The study explores the potential changes in water year types and hydrological droughts as well as runoff, based on which the former two metrics are calculated in the Central Valley of California, United States, in the 21st century. The latest operative projections from four representative climate models under two greenhouse-gas emission scenarios are employed for this purpose. The study shows that the temporal distribution of annual runoff is expected to change in terms of shifting more volume to the wet season (October–March) from the snowmelt season (April–July). Increases in wet season runoff volume are more noticeable under the higher (versus lower) emission scenario, while decreases in snowmelt season runoff are generally more significant under the lower (versus higher) emission scenario. In comparison, changes in the water year types are more influenced by climate models rather than emission scenarios. When comparing two regions in the Central Valley, the rain-dominated Sacramento River region is projected to experience more wet years and less critical years than the snow-dominated San Joaquin River region due to their hydroclimatic and geographic differences. Hydrological droughts in the snowmelt season and wet season mostly exhibit upward and downward trends, respectively. However, the uncertainty in the direction of the trend on annual and multi-year scales tends to be climate-model dependent. Overall, this study highlights non-stationarity and long-term uncertainty in these study metrics. They need to be considered when developing adaptive water resources management strategies, some of which are discussed in the study.
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