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Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 03 Jan 2020

Submitted as: research article | 03 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).

Diagnosis of future changes in hydrology for a Canadian Rocky Mountain headwater basin

Xing Fang and John W. Pomeroy Xing Fang and John W. Pomeroy
  • Centre for Hydrology, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, S7N 1K2, Canada

Abstract. Climate change is anticipated to have impacts on the water resources of the Saskatchewan River, which originates in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. To better understand the climate change impacts in the mountain headwaters of this basin, a physically based hydrological model was developed for this basin using the Cold Regions Hydrological Modelling platform (CRHM) for Marmot Creek Research Basin (~9.4 km2), located in the Front Ranges of the Canadian Rocky Mountain. Marmot Creek is composed of ecozones ranging from montane forests to alpine tundra and alpine exposed rock and includes both large and small clearcuts. The model included blowing and intercepted snow redistribution, sublimation, energy-balance snowmelt, slope and canopy effects on melt, Penman-Monteith evapotranspiration, infiltration to frozen and unfrozen soils, hillslope hydrology, streamflow routing and groundwater components and was parameterised without calibration from streamflow. Near-surface outputs from the 4-km Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model were bias corrected using the quantile delta mapping method with respect to meteorological data from five stations located from montane forest to mountaintop during October 2005–September 2013. The bias corrected WRF outputs during current period (CTRL, 2005–2013) and future period (PGW, 2091–2099) were used to drive model simulations to assess changes in Marmot Creek's hydrology. Under a "business as usual" forcing scenario: representative concentration pathway 8.5 (RCP8.5) in PGW, the basin warms up by 4.7 °C and receives 16 % more precipitation, which leads to a 40 mm decline in seasonal peak snowpack, 84 mm decrease in snowmelt volume, 0.2 mm day-1 slower melt rate, and 49 days shorter snowcover duration. The alpine snow season will be shortened by almost one and half month, but at some lower elevations there are large decreases in peak snowpack (~45 %) as well as a shorter snow season. Losses of peak snowpack will be much greater in clearcuts than under forest canopies. In alpine and treeline ecozones blowing snow transport and sublimation will be suppressed by higher threshold wind speeds for transport, in forest canopies sublimation losses from intercepted snow will decrease due to faster unloading and drip, and for all ecozones, evapotranspiration will increase due to longer snow-free seasons and more rainfall. Runoff will begin earlier in all ecozones, but, as result of variability in surface and subsurface hydrology, forested and alpine ecozones generate larger runoff volumes, ranging from 12 % to 25 %, whereas the treeline ecozone has a small (2 %) decrease in runoff volume due to decreased melt volumes from smaller snowdrifts. The shift in timing in streamflow is notable, with 236 % higher flows in spring months and 12 % lower flows in summer and 13 % higher flows in early fall. Overall, Marmot Creek basin annual streamflow discharge will increase by 18 % with PGW without a change in its streamflow generation efficiency, despite the basin shifting from snowmelt runoff towards rainfall-dominated runoff generation.

Xing Fang and John W. Pomeroy
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Status: open (until 28 Feb 2020)
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Xing Fang and John W. Pomeroy
Xing Fang and John W. Pomeroy
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Short summary
High resolution Weather Research and Forecasting model near surface outputs from control and future periods were bias corrected by downscaling outputs with respect to meteorological stations in Marmot Creek Research Basin, Canadian Rocky Mountain. A hydrological model simulation driven by the bias corrected outputs showed declined seasonal peak snowpack, shorter snowcover duration, higher evapotranspiration, and increased streamflow discharge in Marmot Creek for the warmer and wetter future.
High resolution Weather Research and Forecasting model near surface outputs from control and...