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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2019-611
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2019-611
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 13 Jan 2020

Submitted as: research article | 13 Jan 2020

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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).

Importance of snowmelt contribution to seasonal runoff and summer low flows in Czechia

Michal Jenicek1 and Ondrej Ledvinka2 Michal Jenicek and Ondrej Ledvinka
  • 1Charles University, Department of Physical Geography and Geoecology, Prague, Czechia
  • 2Czech Hydrometeorological Institute, Prague, Czechia

Abstract. The streamflow seasonality in mountain catchments is largely influenced by snow. However, a shift from snowfall to rain is expected in the future. Consequently, a decrease in snow storage and earlier snowmelt is predicted, which will cause changes in spring and summer runoff. The objectives of this study were to quantify 1) how inter-annual variations in snow storages affect spring and summer runoff, including summer low flows and 2) the importance of snowmelt in generating runoff compared to rainfall. The snow storage, groundwater recharge and streamflow were simulated for 59 mountain catchments in Czechia in the period 1980–2014 using a bucket-type catchment model. The model performance was evaluated against observed daily runoff and snow water equivalent. Hypothetical simulations were performed, which allowed us to analyse the effect of inter-annual variations in snow storage on seasonal runoff separately from other components of the water balance. The results showed that 17–42 % (26 % on average) of the total runoff in study catchments originates as snowmelt, despite the fact that only 12–37 % (20 % on average) of the precipitation falls as snow. This means that snow is more effective in generating catchment runoff compared to liquid precipitation. This was documented by modelling experiments which showed that total annual runoff and groundwater recharge decreases in the case of a precipitation shift from snow to rain. In general, snow-poor years are clearly characterized by a lower snowmelt runoff contribution compared to snow-rich years in the analysed period. Additionally, snowmelt started earlier in these snow-poor years and caused lower groundwater recharge. This also affected summer baseflow. For most of the catchments, the lowest summer baseflow was reached in years with both relatively low summer precipitation and snow storage. This showed that summer low flows (directly related to baseflow) in our study catchments are not only a function of low precipitation and high evapotranspiration, but they are significantly affected by previous winter snowpack. This effect might intensify the summer low flows in the future when generally less snow is expected.

Michal Jenicek and Ondrej Ledvinka
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Michal Jenicek and Ondrej Ledvinka
Michal Jenicek and Ondrej Ledvinka
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Short summary
Changes in snow affect the runoff seasonality, including summer low flows. Here we analyse this effect in 59 mountain catchments in Czechia. We show that snow is more effective in generating runoff compared to rain. Snow-poor years generated lower recharge than snow-rich years, which resulted in higher deficit volumes in summer. Results indicate that future liquid precipitation increase might not compensate the solid precipitation decrease. This might be critical for water supply in the future.
Changes in snow affect the runoff seasonality, including summer low flows. Here we analyse this...
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