Journal cover Journal topic
Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2017-216
© Author(s) 2017. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Research article
08 May 2017
Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Hydrology and Earth System Sciences (HESS).
Dynamics of water fluxes and storages in an Alpine karst catchment under current and potential future climate conditions
Zhao Chen1, Andreas Hartmann2,3, Thorsten Wagener3, and Nico Goldscheider1 1Institute of Applied Geosciences, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Karlsruhe, Germany
2Institute of Hydrology, Albert-Ludwigs-University of Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany
3Department of Civil Engineering, University of Bristol, UK
Abstract. Climate change projections indicate significant changes to precipitation and temperature regimes in European karst regions. Alpine karst systems can be especially vulnerable under changing hydro-meteorological conditions since snowmelt in mountainous environments is an important controlling process for aquifer recharge, and is highly sensitive to varying climatic conditions. The current study presents an investigation of present and future water fluxes and storages at an Alpine karst catchment using a distributed numerical model. A delta approach combined with random sampling was used to assess the potential impacts of climate changes. The study site is characterized by high permeability (karstified) limestone formations and low permeability (non-karst) sedimentary flysch. The model simulation under current conditions demonstrates that a large proportion of precipitation infiltrates into the karst aquifer as autogenic recharge. Surface runoff in the adjacent non-karst areas partly infiltrates into the karst aquifer as allogenic point recharge. Moreover, the result shows that surface snow storage is dominant from November to April, while subsurface water storage in the karst aquifer dominates from May to October. The climate scenario runs demonstrate that varied climate conditions significantly affect the spatiotemporal distribution of water fluxes and storages: (1) the total catchment discharge decreases under all evaluated future climate conditions. (2) The spatiotemporal discharge pattern is strongly controlled by temperature variations, which can shift the seasonal snowmelt pattern, with snow storage in the cold season (December to April) decreasing significantly under all change scenarios. (3) Increased karst aquifer recharge in winter and spring, and decreased recharge in summer and autumn, partly offset each other. (4) Impacts on the karst springs are distinct; the permanent spring presents a robust discharge behavior, while the estavelle is highly sensitive to changing climate. This analysis effectively demonstrates that the impacts on subsurface flow dynamics are regulated by the characteristic dual flow and spatially heterogeneous distributed drainage structure of the karst aquifer. Overall, our study suggests that bespoke hydrological models tailored to the specific subsurface characteristics of an Alpine karst catchment are needed to understand climate change impact.

Citation: Chen, Z., Hartmann, A., Wagener, T., and Goldscheider, N.: Dynamics of water fluxes and storages in an Alpine karst catchment under current and potential future climate conditions, Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci. Discuss., https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2017-216, in review, 2017.
Zhao Chen et al.
Zhao Chen et al.

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