Incorporating water management in an Earth System Model for improved climate, impact and adaptation modelling

Host institution

Vrije Universiteit Brussel (Belgium).

Project description

In the future, irrigation activities are expected to expand and intensify to meet growing demands for food, fibre and energy. However, projected climate change caused by both anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions and land-use activities is likely to constrain this evolution.

The aim of this research will be to implement climate change adaptation techniques in an earth system model to assess the effects of climate-smart water management (e.g. irrigation, flow regulation) on regional impact projections across the globe. Different from previous research with hydrological models, this approach explicitly accounts for atmospheric feedbacks.

The proposed research will be conducted within the Community Earth System Model version 2 (CESM2), a fully coupled, state-of-the-art earth system model whose simulations have contributed to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) sixth assessment report (exp. 2021). CESM is tested and developed by an international research community of more than 5000 scientists and CESM1 is considered to be the best performing model of its generation. However, water management is poorly parameterised (e.g., no reservoir operation), routed water is decoupled from landscape processes (e.g., river water is not available for irrigation), and adaptation options in the water sector are absent (e.g. no climate-smart irrigation). In this project, we will improve CESM to include (i) a two-way coupling between landscape processes and routing; (ii) crop irrigation, industrial and domestic water use from routed freshwater and reservoirs [Secondment to IIASA]; (iii) scenarios of climate change adaptation options for irrigation [Secondment to Climate Analytics]. By explicitly considering climate change adaptation in a subset of global-scale simulations, we will be able to forecast the added value of adaptation in alleviating impacts projected under no-policy scenarios.


International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), Laxenburg, Austria. 3 months.
Climate Analytics, Berlin, Germany. 4 months.


Ioan Sabin Taranu

Vrije Universiteit Brussel (Belgium)
Incorporating water management in an Earth System Model
improved climate, impact and adaptation modelling