In this study, a hydrological discharge model is presented which may be applied as a tool to validate the simulation of the hydrologic cycle of atmospheric models that are used in climate change studies. It can also be applied in studies of global climate change to investigate how changes in climate may affect the discharge of large rivers.

The model was developed for the application with the climate models used at the Max-Planck-Institute for Meteorology. It describes the translation and retention of the lateral waterflows on the global scale as a function of the spatially distributed land surface characteristics which are globally available. Here, global scale refers to the resolution of 0.5° and lower, corresponding to a typical average gridbox area of about 2,500 km2. The hydrological discharge model separates between the flow processes of overland flow, baseflow and riverflow. The model parameters are mainly functions of the gridbox characteristics of topography and gridbox length.

The hydrological discharge model is applied to the BALTEX (Baltic Sea Experiment) region using input from an atmospheric general circulation model (ECHAM4) as well as from a regional climate model (REMO). The simulated inflows into the Baltic Sea and its sub-catchments are compared to observed and naturalized discharges. The results of this comparison are discussed and the simulated values of precipitation, surface air temperature and accumulated snowpack are compared to both observed data and surrogate data.

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