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Impacts of climate change on future hurricane induced rainfall and flooding in a coastal watershed: A case study on Hurricane...

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Journal of Hydrology
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The warming climate is likely to increase hurricane-associated extreme rainfall and lead to sea-level rise (SLR). Thus, how the floods induced by intense hurricanes respond to these potential changes is of great concern. This study investigates the future warmer climate impacts on hurricane-induced extreme rainfall, and—more importantly—the subsequent compound flooding at the watershed scale (from an event-based analysis perspective). To this goal, a modeling framework is designed based on the Distributed Hydrology Soil Vegetation Model (DHSVM), the Two-Dimensional fvand the Regional Community Earth System Model (R-CESM). The framework was applied to Hurricane Harvey (2017) at the Clear Creek watershed (a coastal watershed in the southern Houston) as a case study. The results show that the projected maximum rainfall totals over the watershed would be exacerbated by 17.7 % and 49.7 % in the 2050s and 2090s (respectively) under Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5 (RCP 8.5). This means a 16.1 % increase in Harvey rainfall over the watershed per degree Celsius increase in Mean Surface Temperature over the Gulf of Mexico region (18°∼31° N, 77°∼98° W). Meanwhile, the increases in maximum inundation extent would be 11.0 % (2050s) and 19.5 % (2090s). Furthermore, considerable increases in maximum inundation depth and duration in regions along the middle and downstream of Clear Creek (and also those around Clear Lake) are expected. The projected SLR will have little effect on the maximum inundation depth and extent if storm surge changes are not taken into account; meanwhile, it will influence the inundation duration at downstream locations. This modeling framework can be also applied at other coastal watersheds to evaluate the projected climate change impacts on the compound flooding induced by extreme climate events.