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Discussion papers | Copyright
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2018-509
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 11 Oct 2018

Research article | 11 Oct 2018

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Hydrology and Earth System Sciences (HESS).

Impact of glacier loss on annual basin water yields

Evan Carnahan, Jason M. Amundson, and Eran Hood Evan Carnahan et al.
  • Department of Natural Sciences, University of Alaska Southeast, Juneau, AK, USA

Abstract. We couple a glacier flow model to a simplified landscape model to investigate the effects of glacier dynamics, climate, and vegetation succession on annual basin runoff during glacier retreat. Basin runoff initially increases as water is released from glacier storage but eventually decreases to below preretreat levels due to increases in evapotranspiration and altitudinal losses in precipitation. Peak basin runoff and the time to peak basin runoff are primarily determined by glacier dynamics, with shallow sloping continental glaciers experiencing the largest increases in basin runoff (up to 62%) and longest time until peak basin runoff (up to 142 years), compared to 14% and 54 years for steep maritime glaciers subjected to the same rate of climate change. These differences in peak basin runoff and time to peak basin runoff can be characterized by the glacier response time: glaciers with long response times are pushed farther out of equilibrium for a given climate forcing and produce larger variations in basin runoff than glaciers with short response times. After peak basin runoff is reached, vegetation plays an increasingly important role, with basin runoff decreasing considerably faster for heavily vegetated landscapes than for rocky landscapes and ultimately reaching values that are over 50% lower than preretreat levels. Our results demonstrate that glacier dynamics and landscape evolution should receive roughly equal attention when assessing the impacts of glacier mass loss on water resources.

Evan Carnahan et al.
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Evan Carnahan et al.
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Short summary
We model the effects of glacier dynamics, climate, and plant succession on annual streamflow during glacier retreat. Streamflow initially increases as the glacier melts but eventually decreases to below preretreat levels due to increases in evapotranspiration. Glacier dynamics largely controls early variations in streamflow, whereas plant succession plays a progressively larger roll throughout. We show that glacier dynamics and landscape evolution are equally important in predicting streamflow.
We model the effects of glacier dynamics, climate, and plant succession on annual streamflow...
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