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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2019-487
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2019-487
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 24 Oct 2019

Submitted as: research article | 24 Oct 2019

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

Long-term changes in Central European river discharge 1869–2016: impact of changing snow covers, reservoir constructions and an intensified hydrological cycle

Erwin Rottler, Till Francke, Gerd Bürger, and Axel Bronstert Erwin Rottler et al.
  • Institute of Environmental Science and Geography, University of Potsdam, Karl-Liebknecht-Straße 24–25, 14476 Potsdam, Germany

Abstract. Recent climatic changes have the potential to severely alter river runoff, particularly in snow-dominated river basins. Effects of changing snow covers superimpose with changes in precipitation and anthropogenic modifications of the watershed and river network. In the attempt to identify and disentangle long-term effects of different mechanisms, we employ a set of analytical tools to extract long-term changes in river runoff in high resolution. We combine quantile sampling with moving average trend statistics and empirical mode decomposition and apply these tools to discharge data recorded along rivers with nival, pluvial and mixed flow regimes as well as temperature and precipitation data covering the time frame 1869–2016. With a focus on Central Europe, we analyze the long-term impact of snow cover and precipitation changes along with their interaction with reservoir constructions.

Our results show that runoff seasonality of snow-dominated rivers decreases. Runoff increases in winter and spring, while discharge decreases in summer and beginning of autumn. We attribute this redistribution of annual flow mainly to reservoir constructions in the alpine ridge. During the course of the last century, large fractions of the alpine rivers have been dammed to produce hydropower. In recent decades, runoff changes induced by reservoir constructions seem to overlap with changes in snow cover. We suggest that alpine signals propagate downstream and affect runoff far outside the alpine area in river segments with mixed flow regimes. Furthermore, our results hint at more (intense) rainfall in recent decades. Detected increases in high discharge can be traced back to corresponding changes in precipitation.

Erwin Rottler et al.
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Erwin Rottler et al.
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Short summary
In the attempt to identify and disentangle long-term impacts of changes in snow cover and precipitation along with reservoir constructions, we employ a set of analytical tools on hydro-climatic time series. We identify storage reservoirs as an important factor redistributing runoff from summer to winter. Furthermore, our results hint at more (intense) rainfall in recent decades. Detected increases in high discharge can be traced back to corresponding changes in precipitation.
In the attempt to identify and disentangle long-term impacts of changes in snow cover and...
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