Modelling the Potential Impacts of Climate Change on Snowpack in the North Saskatchewan River Watershed, Alberta
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- MacDonald, R.J., Byrne, J.M., Boon, S. et al. Water Resour Manage (2012) 26: 3053. doi:10.1007/s11269-012-0016-2
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The North Saskatchewan River basin is a large watershed in central Alberta that provides water for a range of stakeholders, including large municipalities, agricultural operations, power generation, and resource extraction industries. This study assesses potential future changes in snowpack for the North Saskatchewan River watershed in response to a range of GCM-derived climate warming scenarios representing the periods from 2010-2039 (2020s), 2040-2069 (2050s), and 2070-2099 (2080s). The GENESYS (GENerate Earth SYstems Science input) spatial hydrometeorological model is applied to simulate potential changes in the zero degree isotherm, precipitation phase, watershed average maximum spring snow water equivalent (SWE), the dates of maximum and minimum SWE, and snowmelt period for these future climate scenarios. Climate warming is likely to result in an upwards shift in elevation of the zero degree isotherm, with a transition to more precipitation occurring as rain than snow. Although watershed average maximum SWE may not change under future conditions, the timing of spring snowmelt onset is likely to change under the future climate scenarios applied. It is demonstrated that increased air temperatures are expected to result in substantial changes in snowpack processes in the North Saskatchewan River watershed.