Climatic Change

, Volume 136, Issue 3–4, pp 539–553 | Cite as

An assessment of the possible impacts of climate change on snow and peak river flows across Britain

  • V. A. Bell
  • A. L. Kay
  • H. N. Davies
  • R. G. Jones


A temperature-based snow module has been coupled with a grid-based distributed hydrological model, to improve simulations of river flows in upland areas of Britain subject to snowfall and snowmelt. The coupled model has been driven with data from an 11-member perturbed-parameter climate model ensemble, for two time-slices (1960–1990 and 2069–2099), to investigate the potential impacts of climate change. The analysis indicates large reductions in the ensemble mean of the number of lying snow days across the country. This in turn affects the seasonality of peak river flows in some parts of the country; for northerly regions, annual maxima tend to occur earlier in the water year in future. For more southerly regions the changes are less straightforward, and likely driven by changes in rainfall patterns rather than snow. The modelled percentage changes in peak flows illustrate high spatial variability in hydrological response to projected climate change, and large differences between ensemble members. When changes in projected future peak flows are compared to an estimate of current natural variability, more changes fall outside the range of natural variability in southern Britain than in the north.


Regional Climate Model Peak Flow Ensemble Member Annual Maximum Supplementary Section 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This work was undertaken under subcontract to Met Office Hadley Centre and supported by CEH National Capability Funding. RGJ acknowledges funding from the Joint DECC and Defra Met Office Hadley Centre Climate Programme (GA01101).

Supplementary material

10584_2016_1637_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (475 kb)
ESM 1 (PDF 474 kb)


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Copyright information

© Crown Copyright 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • V. A. Bell
    • 1
  • A. L. Kay
    • 1
  • H. N. Davies
    • 1
  • R. G. Jones
    • 2
  1. 1.Centre for Ecology & HydrologyWallingfordUK
  2. 2.Met Office Hadley CentreExeterUK

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