On the changing contribution of snow to the hydrology of the Fraser River basin, Canada

Kang, D. H., Shi, X. , Gao, H. and Déry, S. J. (2014) On the changing contribution of snow to the hydrology of the Fraser River basin, Canada. Journal of Hydrometeorology, 15(4), pp. 1344-1365. (doi:10.1175/JHM-D-13-0120.1)

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Abstract

This paper presents an application of the Variable Infiltration Capacity (VIC) model to the Fraser River basin (FRB) of British Columbia (BC), Canada, over the latter half of the twentieth century. The Fraser River is the longest waterway in BC and supports the world’s most abundant Pacific Ocean salmon populations. Previous modeling and observational studies have demonstrated that the FRB is a snow-dominated system, but with climate change, it may evolve to a pluvial regime. Thus, the goal of this study is to evaluate the changing contribution of snow to the hydrology of the FRB over the latter half of the twentieth century. To this end, a 0.25° atmospheric forcing dataset is used to drive the VIC model from 1949 to 2006 (water years) at a daily time step over a domain covering the entire FRB. A model evaluation is first conducted over 11 major subwatersheds of the FRB to quantitatively assess the spatial variations of snow water equivalent (SWE) and runoff (R). The ratio of the spatially averaged maximum SWE to R (RSR) is used to quantify the contribution of snow to the runoff in the 11 subwatersheds of interest. From 1949 to 2006, RSR exhibits a significant decline in 9 of the 11 subwatersheds (with p < 0.05 according to the Mann–Kendall test statistics). To determine the sensitivity of RSR, the air temperature and precipitation in the forcing dataset are then perturbed. The ratio RSR decreases more significantly, especially during the 1990s and 2000s, when air temperatures have warmed considerably compared to the 1950s. On the other hand, increasing precipitation by a multiplicative factor of 1.1 causes RSR to decrease. As the climate continues to warm, ecological processes and human usage of natural resources in the FRB may be substantially affected by its transition from a snow to a hybrid (nival/pluvial) and even a rain-dominated system.

Item Type:Articles
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Shi, Dr John Xiaogang
Authors: Kang, D. H., Shi, X., Gao, H., and Déry, S. J.
College/School:College of Social Sciences > School of Interdisciplinary Studies
Journal Name:Journal of Hydrometeorology
Publisher:American Meteorological Society
ISSN:1525-755X
ISSN (Online):1525-7541

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