Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, Volume 22, Issue 2

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Copernicus GmbH
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Retrospective forecasts of the upcoming winter season snow accumulation in the Inn headwaters (European Alps)
Kristian Förster | Florian Hanzer | Elena Stoll | Adam A. Scaife | Craig MacLachlan | Johannes Schöber | Matthias Huttenlau | Stefan Achleitner | Ulrich Strasser

Abstract. This article presents analyses of retrospective seasonal forecasts of snow accumulation. Re-forecasts with 4 months' lead time from two coupled atmosphere–ocean general circulation models (NCEP CFSv2 and MetOffice GloSea5) drive the Alpine Water balance and Runoff Estimation model (AWARE) in order to predict mid-winter snow accumulation in the Inn headwaters. As snowpack is hydrological storage that evolves during the winter season, it is strongly dependent on precipitation totals of the previous months. Climate model (CM) predictions of precipitation totals integrated from November to February (NDJF) compare reasonably well with observations. Even though predictions for precipitation may not be significantly more skilful than for temperature, the predictive skill achieved for precipitation is retained in subsequent water balance simulations when snow water equivalent (SWE) in February is considered. Given the AWARE simulations driven by observed meteorological fields as a benchmark for SWE analyses, the correlation achieved using GloSea5-AWARE SWE predictions is r = 0.57. The tendency of SWE anomalies (i.e. the sign of anomalies) is correctly predicted in 11 of 13 years. For CFSv2-AWARE, the corresponding values are r = 0.28 and 7 of 13 years. The results suggest that some seasonal prediction of hydrological model storage tendencies in parts of Europe is possible.

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Projected cryospheric and hydrological impacts of 21st century climate change in the Ötztal Alps (Austria) simulated using a physically based approach
Florian Hanzer | Kristian Förster | Johanna Nemec | Ulrich Strasser

Abstract. A physically based hydroclimatological model (AMUNDSEN) is used to assess future climate change impacts on the cryosphere and hydrology of the Ötztal Alps (Austria) until 2100. The model is run in 100 m spatial and 3 h temporal resolution using in total 31 downscaled, bias-corrected, and temporally disaggregated EURO-CORDEX climate projections for the representative concentration pathways (RCPs) 2.6, 4.5, and 8.5 scenarios as forcing data, making this – to date – the most detailed study for this region in terms of process representation and range of considered climate projections. Changes in snow coverage, glacierization, and hydrological regimes are discussed both for a larger area encompassing the Ötztal Alps (1850 km2, 862–3770 m a.s.l.) as well as for seven catchments in the area with varying size (11–165 km2) and glacierization (24–77 %). Results show generally declining snow amounts with moderate decreases (0–20 % depending on the emission scenario) of mean annual snow water equivalent in high elevations (> 2500 m a.s.l.) until the end of the century. The largest decreases, amounting to up to 25–80 %, are projected to occur in elevations below 1500 m a.s.l. Glaciers in the region will continue to retreat strongly, leaving only 4–20 % of the initial (as of 2006) ice volume left by 2100. Total and summer (JJA) runoff will change little during the early 21st century (2011–2040) with simulated decreases (compared to 1997–2006) of up to 11 % (total) and 13 % (summer) depending on catchment and scenario, whereas runoff volumes decrease by up to 39 % (total) and 47 % (summer) towards the end of the century (2071–2100), accompanied by a shift in peak flows from July towards June.