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Title: Present-day and future contributions of glacier runoff to summertime flows in a Pacific Northwest watershed: implications for water resources

Author: Nolin, Anne W.; Phillippe, Jeff; Jefferson, Anne; Lewis, Sarah L.

Date: 2010

Source: Water Resources Research. 46: W12509

Publication Series: Journal/Magazine Article (JRNL)

Description: While the impacts of long-term climate change trends on glacier hydrology have received much attention, little has been done to quantify direct glacier runoff contributions to streamflow. This paper presents an approach for determining glacier runoff contributions to streamflow and estimating the effects of increased temperature and decreased glacier area on future runoff. We focus on late summer streamflow (when flow is lowest and nonglacier contributions to flow are minimal) of a small glacierized watershed on the flanks of Mount Hood, Oregon, United States. Field and lab measurements and satellite imagery were used in conjunction with a temperature-index model of glacier runoff to simulate potential effects of increased temperature and reduction in glacier area on late summer runoff in the watershed. Discharge and stable isotope data show that 41-73% of late summer streamflow is presently derived directly from glacier melt. Model simulations indicate that while increased temperature leads to rapid glacier melt and therefore increased streamflow, the consequences of glacier recession overcomes this effect, ultimately leading to substantial declines in streamflow. Model sensitivity analyses show that simulation results are most sensitive to degree day factor and less sensitive to uncertainties in debris-covered area and accumulation area ratio. This case study demonstrates that the effects of glacier recession on streamflow are a concern for water resource management at the local scale. This approach could also be extended to larger scales such as the upper Columbia River basin where glacier contributions to late summer flows are also thought to be substantial.

Keywords: climate change, glaciations, streamflow, hydrologic modeling, watershed management

Publication Notes:

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  • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.

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Nolin, Anne W.; Phillippe, Jeff; Jefferson, Anne; Lewis, Sarah L. 2010. Present-day and future contributions of glacier runoff to summertime flows in a Pacific Northwest watershed: implications for water resources. Water Resources Research. 46: W12509.

 


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