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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2019-377
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2019-377
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 26 Aug 2019

Submitted as: research article | 26 Aug 2019

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

Evapotranspiration feedbacks shift annual precipitation-runoff relationships during multi-year droughts in a Mediterranean mixed rain-snow climate

Francesco Avanzi1, Joseph Rungee2, Tessa Maurer1, Roger Bales2,1, Qin Ma2, Steven Glaser1, and Martha Conklin2 Francesco Avanzi et al.
  • 1Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of California, Berkeley, 94720, Berkeley, California, USA
  • 2Sierra Nevada Research Institute, University of California, Merced, 95343, Merced, California, USA

Abstract. Focusing on the headwaters of the California's Feather River, we investigated how multi-year droughts affect the water balance of Mediterranean mixed rain-snow catchments. Droughts in these catchments saw a lower fraction of precipitation allocated to runoff compared to non-drought years. This shift in precipitation-runoff relationship was larger in a surface-runoff-dominated than in a subsurface-flow-dominated catchment – 39 % and 18 % less runoff, respectively, for a representative precipitation amount. The performance of the PRMS hydrologic model in these catchments decreased during droughts, particularly those causing larger shifts in the annual precipitation-runoff relationship. Evapotranspiration (ET) was the only water-balance component for which predictive accuracy during drought vs. non-drought years was consistently different. Besides a systematic bias during all years, the model tended to relatively overestimate drought ET and to underestimate non-drought ET. Modeling errors for ET during droughts were somewhat correlated with maximum and minimum annual temperature as well as changes in sub-surface storage (r = −0.45, −0.57, and 0.23, respectively). These correlations point to the interannual response of ET to climate, or climate elasticity of ET, as the likely driver of the observed shifts in precipitation-runoff relationship during droughts in Mediterranean mixed rain-snow regions; underestimation of this response caused increased modeling inaccuracy during droughts. Improved predictions of interannual variability of ET are necessary to support water-supply management in a warming climate and could be achieved by explicitly parametrizing feedback mechanisms across atmospheric demand for moisture, ET, and multi-year carryover of subsurface storage.

Francesco Avanzi et al.
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Short summary
Multi-year droughts in a Mediterranean mixed rain-snow climate see a lower fraction of precipitation allocated to runoff compared to non-drought years. By comparing observed water-balance components with simulations by a hydrologic model (PRMS), we explain these shifts in precipitation-runoff relationship as being caused by feedback mechanisms across atmospheric demand for moisture, evapotranspiration, and multi-year carryover of subsurface storage.
Multi-year droughts in a Mediterranean mixed rain-snow climate see a lower fraction of...
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