Impact of climate change on snow melt driven runoff timing over the Alpine region
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We investigate the climate change impact on snowmelt-driven runoff (SDR) over the Alpine region using the output from two Med-CORDEX and two EURO-CORDEX regional climate model projections (RCP8.5 scenario) at two resolutions (12, 50 km) driven by a sub-set of the CMIP5 GCMs. Comparison with the European Water Archive observed runoff dataset (242 stations) over the Alps shows a good performance by the higher resolution models in representing present day SDR, with the lower resolution simulations being less accurate in capturing the SDR timing. In the future projections all the models show a temperature increase of up to 4° by the end of the 21st century throughout the Alps and this leads to an anticipation of SDR timing throughout the year that can span from 1 to 3 months depending on the model horizontal resolution. These timing changes are associated with changes in snow cover modulated by the complex Alpine topography. In fact, model resolution plays a critical role in regulating the magnitude, timing and spatial distribution of the response of snow cover and SDR to warming. We find that the accurate simulation of changes in runoff timing requires a high resolution representation of the Alpine topography, and can be important for water storage regulations concerning energy production, agriculture and domestic use.
KeywordsRegional climate models Med-CORDEX EURO-CORDEX Runoff Change hydrological cycle Water year Alps
The simulations used in this work were downloaded from the Med-CORDEX (www.medcordex.eu) and EURO-CORDEX (www.euro-CORDEX.net) databases. We thank the modeling groups for providing their data. We also thank Laura Feudale for sharing with us some piece of her software to compute the runoff percentiles.
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