A first look at the influence of anthropogenic climate change on the future delivery of fluvial sediment to the Ganges–Brahmaputra–Meghna delta
We employ a climate-driven hydrological water balance and sediment transport model (HydroTrend) to simulate future climate-driven sediment loads flowing into the Ganges–Brahmaputra–Meghna (GBM) mega-delta. The model was parameterised using high-quality topographic data and forced with daily temperature and precipitation data obtained from downscaled Regional Climate Model (RCM) simulations for the period 1971–2100. Three perturbed RCM model runs were selected to quantify the potential range of future climate conditions associated with the SRES A1B scenario. Fluvial sediment delivery rates to the GBM delta associated with these climate data sets are projected to increase under the influence of anthropogenic climate change, albeit with the magnitude of the increase varying across the two catchments. Of the two study basins, the Brahmaputra's fluvial sediment load is predicted to be more sensitive to future climate change. Specifically, by the middle part of the 21st century, our model results suggest that sediment loads increase (relative to the 1981–2000 baseline period) over a range of between 16% and 18% (depending on climate model run) for the Ganges, but by between 25% and 28% for the Brahmaputra. The simulated increase in sediment flux emanating from the two catchments further increases towards the end of the 21st century, reaching between 34% and 37% for the Ganges and between 52% and 60% for the Brahmaputra by the 2090s. The variability in these changes across the three climate change simulations is small compared to the changes, suggesting they represent a significant increase. The new data obtained in this study offer the first estimate of whether and how anthropogenic climate change may affect the delivery of fluvial sediment to the GBM delta, informing assessments of the future sustainability and resilience of one of the world's most vulnerable mega-deltas. Specifically, such significant increases in future sediment loads could increase the resilience of the delta to sea-level rise by giving greater potential for vertical accretion. However, these increased sediment fluxes may not be realised due to uncertainties in the monsoon related response to climate change or other human-induced changes in the catchment: this is a subject for further research.