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> Home > Nature and climate > Climate and water > Climate effects on the water cycle

Climate change effects on the water cycle

GEUS performs research and consulting within the fields of hydrological effects of change on water resources. The activities mainly falls within to fields: Application of climate scenario data to hydrological modelling, and quantification of climate change effects. Climate projections by global and regional climate models need adjustments before being applied to hydrological calculations. Alternative methods, including links between climate models and hydrological models, are investigated.

A wide range of effects and issues concerning climate change in the hydrological cycle are outlined and quantified, including:
  • The size of the groundwater resource and stream runoff 
  • Changes in groundwater abstraction for irrigation purposes
  • Flooding caused by rising groundwater level, high water levels in streams or rising sea level
  • Salt water intrusion into aquifers caused by rising sea level
  • Water in the landscape, including surface runoff and wetlands
  • Protection of (drinking water) catchment areas and well fields
  • Leaching of pesticides and nutrients to the aquatic environment.

Quantification of projection uncertainty is an important component of climate impact studies. Uncertainty isassociated with projection of greenhouse gas emissions, climate models and the hydrological models, as well, with a possible outcome of a significant uncertainty in prediction of hydrological impacts of climate change.

Technical opportunities for adapting to future climate change have a growing research potential. Hydrological calculations can be applied to evaluate the impact of alternative adaptation strategies, including changes in groundwater abstraction, changes in stream morphology and maintenance, establishment of flood plains, establishing fallow lands in river valleys, damming, etc

Current projects: (in alphabetic order)

  • BaltCICA: Climate change: Impacts, costs and adaptation in the Baltic Sea Region. Contact: Klaus Hinsby.
  • CLIVET: Impacts of Climate Change on Water Resources and Agriculture - and Adaptation Strategies in Vietnam and Tanzania. Contact: Simon Stisen.
  • CLIWAT: Climate and Water - a transnational project in the North Sea Region. Contact: Klaus Hinsby.
  • GWES: Groundwater for Emergencies. Contact: Peter van der Keur.
  • HYACINTS: Hydrological Modelling for Assessing Climate Change Impacts at different Scales. Contact: Jens Christian Refsgaard.
  • HydroCast: Hydrological Forecasting and Data Assimilation. Contact: Jens Christian Refsgaard.
  • NORDRESS: Nordic Centre of Excellence on Resilience and Societal Security. Contact: Hans Jørgen Henriksen
  • PRECIOUS: Prediction of Climatic Impacts on Pesticide Leaching to the Aquatic Environments. Contact: Torben Sonnenborg.
  • SaltCoast: Salt water intrusion in groundwater aquifers in low-lying coastal areas - effects of former and future sea level changes. Contact: Torben Sonnenborg.  
  • Water4Coast: Assessment of hydrological barriers for control of saline water intrusion inot groundwater aquifers in coastal areas under a changed climate. Contact: Klaus Hinsby.


Overflow from a waste water treatment plant after an intense summer downpour

Climate effects on the water cycle