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Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2019-144
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2019-144
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 09 Apr 2019

Research article | 09 Apr 2019

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

Future shifts in extreme flow regimes in Alpine regions

Manuela I. Brunner1, Daniel Farinotti1,2, Harry Zekollari1,2,3, Matthias Huss2,4, and Massimiliano Zappa1 Manuela I. Brunner et al.
  • 1Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research WSL, Birmensdorf ZH, Switzerland
  • 2Laboratory of Hydraulics, Hydrology and Glaciology (VAW), ETH Zürich, Zürich, Switzerland
  • 3Laboratoire de Glaciologie, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Brussels, Belgium
  • 4Department of Geosciences, University of Fribourg, Fribourg, Switzerland

Abstract. Extreme low and high flows can have negative economical, societal, and ecological effects and are expected to become more severe in many regions due to climate change. Besides low and high flows, the whole flow regime is subject to changes. Knowledge on future changes in flow regimes is important since regimes contain information on both extremes and conditions prior to the dry and wet season. Changes in individual low- and high-flow characteristics as well as flow regimes under normal conditions have been thoroughly studied. In contrast, little is known about changes in extreme flow regimes. We here propose two methods for the estimation of extreme flow regimes and apply them to simulated discharge time series for future climate conditions in Switzerland. The first method relies on frequency analysis performed on annual flow duration curves. The second approach performs frequency analysis on the discharge sums of a large set of stochastically generated annual hydrographs. Both approaches were found to produce similar 100-year regime estimates when applied to a data set of 19 hydrological regions in Switzerland. Our results show that changes in both extreme low- and high-flow regimes for rainfall-dominated regions are distinct from those in melt-dominated regions. In rainfall-dominated regions, the minimum discharge of low-flow regimes decreases by up to 50 %, whilst the reduction is of 25 % for high-flow regimes. In contrast, the maximum discharge of low- and high-flow regimes increases by up to 50 %. In melt-dominated regions, the changes point into the other direction than those in rainfall-dominated regions. The minimum and maximum discharge of extreme regimes increase by up to 100 % and decrease by less than 50 %, respectively. Our findings provide guidance in water resources planning and management and the extreme regime estimates are a valuable basis for climate impact studies.

Manuela I. Brunner et al.
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Short summary
River flow regimes are expected to change and so are extreme flow regimes. We propose two methods for estimating extreme flow regimes and show on a dataset from Switzerland how these extreme regimes are expected to change. Our results show that changes in low- and high-flow regimes are distinct for rainfall- and melt-dominated regions. Our findings provide guidance in water resources planning and management.
River flow regimes are expected to change and so are extreme flow regimes. We propose two...
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