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Snow Dynamics, Hydrology, and Erosion

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The Landscape of the Sierra Nevada

Abstract

Sierra Nevada is the southernmost snow area in Europe and its singular geographical location, together with its high altitudes, result in strong gradients of the local climate and hydrology, and rich biodiversity. This chapter aims at providing insights into the major components of the energy and water balance in snowpacks in Mediterranean areas and across the different snow domains found in Sierra Nevada. For this, key descriptors of the snow regime are included from both historical observations and physical modelling during the 1961–2015 period, in the framework of different research projects for the last two decades. The observed relevance of water fluxes to the atmosphere as evaposublimation under these conditions, up to 30–35% of the annual water stored as snow, may be enhanced by the generally observed shift towards torrentiality in the precipitation and snowfall regimes in this site. However, the impacts on hydrology are highly non-linear, with in-season timing of snow events, and their duration, being determinant for the hydrological response and the associated pulse-events of sediment production and deposition downstream. The results highlight the singularity of Sierra Nevada in the context of the high mountain areas in Mediterranean-type regions, and the complexity of the snow dynamics in these areas in the current global warming scenario.

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Acknowledgements

This work was conducted under the aegis of the research groups DFH (Fluvial Dynamics and Hydrology, TEP248-PAIDI) and DFA (Environmental Fluid Dynamics, TEP209-PAIDI), and funded by the FEDER Program through the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation (research project RTI2018-099043-B-I00, OPERA, “Operability in hydrological management under snow torrentiality/drought conditions in the high mountain in semiarid watersheds”) and the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (research project CGL 2014-58508R, GMS-SNOWMED “Global monitoring system for snow areas in Mediterranean regions: trends analysis and implications for water resource management in Sierra Nevada”; research project CGL 2011-25632, SNOWMED, “Snow dynamics in Mediterranean regions and its modelling at different scales. Implication for water management”), the European Union’s H2020 programme under grant agreement 641762, “ECOPOTENTIAL: improving future ecosystem benefits through earth observations”, and by the project AQUACLEW, which is part of ERA4CS, an ERA‐NET initiative by JPI Climate “Connecting Climate Knowledge for Europe” Grant 690462, and co‐funded by MINECO (Spain). Moreover, the present work was partially developed within the framework of the Panta Rhei Decade of the International Association of Hydrological Sciences (IAHS) (working group Water and energy fluxes in a changing environment). Rafael Pimentel acknowledges funding by the Juan de la Cierva Incorporación Program of the Ministry of Science and Innovation (IJC2018-038093-I). The continuous support of the Natural and National Park of the Sierra Nevada has also been determinant for the development of this line of research since 2002. Rafael Pimentel and María J. Polo are members of DAUCO, Unit of Excellence ref. CEX2019-000968-M, with financial support from the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation, the Spanish State Research Agency, through the Severo Ochoa and María de Maeztu Program for Centers and Units of Excellence in R&D.

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Correspondence to María J. Polo .

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Polo, M.J. et al. (2022). Snow Dynamics, Hydrology, and Erosion. In: Zamora, R., Oliva, M. (eds) The Landscape of the Sierra Nevada. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-94219-9_10

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