Increasing Mississippi river discharge throughout the twenty-first century influenced by changes in climate, land use and atmospheric CO2

Friday, 19 December 2014
Bo Tao1, Hanqin Tian1, Wei Ren1, Jia Yang1, Qichun Yang1, Ruoying He2, Wei-Jun Cai3 and Steven E Lohrenz4, (1)Auburn University, Auburn, AL, United States, (2)North Carolina State Univ., Raleigh, NC, United States, (3)University of Delaware, Newark, DE, United States, (4)University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, New Bedford, MA, United States
Previous studies have demonstrated that changes in temperature and precipitation (hereafter climate change) would influence river discharge, but the relative importance of climate change, land use, and elevated atmospheric CO2 have not yet been fully investigated. Here we examined how river discharge in the Mississippi River basin in the 21st century might be influenced by these factors using the Dynamic Land Ecosystem Model driven by atmospheric CO2, downscaled GCMs climate and land use scenarios. Our results suggest that river discharge would be substantially enhanced (10.7-59.8%) by the 2090s compared to the recent decade (2000s), though large discrepancies exist among different climate, atmospheric CO2, and land use change scenarios. Our factorial analyses further indicate that the combined effects of land use change and human-induced atmospheric CO2 elevation on river discharge would outweigh climate change effect under the high emission scenario (A2) of Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change. Our study offers the first attempt to project potential changes in river discharge in response to multiple future environmental changes. It demonstrates the importance of land use change and atmospheric CO2 concentrations in projecting future changes in hydrologic processes. The projected increase river discharge implies that riverine fluxes of carbon, nutrients and pesticide from the MRB to the coastal regions would increase in the future, and thus may influence the states of ocean acidification and hypoxia and deteriorate ocean water quality. Further efforts will also be needed to account for additional environmental factors (such as nitrogen deposition, tropospheric ozone pollution, dam construction, etc.) in projecting changes in the hydrological cycle.