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Estimating fluvial discharges coincident with 21st century coastal storms modeled with CoSMoS

May 1, 2018

On the open coast, flooding is largely driven by tides, storm surge, waves, and in areas near coastal inlets, the magnitude and co-occurrence of high fluvial discharges. Statistical methods are typically used to estimate the individual probability of coastal storm and fluvial discharge occurrences for use in sophisticated flood hazard models. A challenge arises when considering possible future climate changes and the relation between the intensity of extreme coastal water levels and high fluvial discharges.

In this study, the Coastal Storm Modeling System (CoSMoS) is used to dynamically downscale global climate projections to local-scale storm-driven coastal water levels, including associated fluvial discharges. An efficient approach to derive 21st century projected fluvial discharges for rivers within San Francisco Bay was developed, leveraging a readily-available time-series of projected (2010 – 2100) discharge rates of the predominant river system (the “Delta”). Delta projections were used to estimate flow rates of 8 Bay rivers for the IPCC's CMIP5 RCP4.5 climate scenario. Relationships describing discharge rates, normalized by respective watershed areas, were developed and applied to projected data to generate 21st century fluvial discharge time-series for each river. Results indicate decreasing discharge rates throughout the 21st century with the exception of extreme flows.