Skip to page content
USDA Forest Service

Research & Development Treesearch

Treesearch Home
About Treesearch
Contact Us
Research & Development
Forest Products Lab
International Institute of Tropical Forestry
Pacific Northwest
Pacific Southwest
Rocky Mountain
Southern Research Station
Help - We Participate  Government Made Easy

Global Forest Information Service

US Forest Service
P.O. Box 96090
Washington, D.C.

(202) 205-8333

You are here: Home / Search / Publication Information
Bookmark and Share

Publication Information

View PDF (2.0 MB bytes)

Title: Hydrogeologic influence on changes in snowmelt runoff with climate warming: Numerical experiments on a mid-elevation catchment in the Sierra Nevada, USA

Author: Jepsen, S.M.; Harmon, T.C.; Meadows, M.W.; Hunsaker, C.T.;

Date: 2016

Source: Journal of Hydrology. 533: 332-342

Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)

Description: The role of hydrogeology in mediating long-term changes in mountain streamflow, resulting from reduced snowfall in a potentially warmer climate, is currently not well understood. We explore this by simulating changes in stream discharge and evapotranspiration from a mid-elevation, 1-km2 catchment in the southern Sierra Nevada of California (USA) in response to reduced snowfall under warmer conditions, for a plausible range in subsurface hydrologic properties. Simulations are performed using a numerical watershed model, the Penn State Integrated Hydrologic Model (PIHM), constrained by observations from a meteorological station, stream gauge, and eddy covariance tower. We predict that the fraction of precipitation occurring as snowfall would decrease from approximately 47% at current conditions to 25%, 12%, and 5% for air temperature changes of +2, +4, and +6 C. For each of these warming scenarios, changes in mean annual discharge and evapotranspiration simulated by the different plausible soil models show large ranges relative to averages, with coefficients of variation ranging from −3 to 3 depending on warming scenario. With warming and reduced snowfall, substrates with greater storage capacity show less soil moisture limitation on evapotranspiration during the late spring and summer, resulting in greater reductions in annual stream discharge. These findings indicate that the hydrologic response of mountain catchments to atmospheric warming and reduced snowfall may substantially vary across elevations with differing soil and regolith properties, a relationship not typically accounted for in approaches relying on space-for-time substitution. An additional implication of our results is that model simulations of annual stream discharge in response to snowfall-to-rainfall transitions may be relatively uncertain for study areas where subsurface properties are not well constrained. 

Keywords: streamflow, runoff, snow, climate warming, hydrogeology, hydrologic property

Publication Notes:

  • We recommend that you also print this page and attach it to the printout of the article, to retain the full citation information.
  • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.



Jepsen, S.M.; Harmon, T.C.; Meadows, M.W.; Hunsaker, C.T. 2016. Hydrogeologic influence on changes in snowmelt runoff with climate warming: Numerical experiments on a mid-elevation catchment in the Sierra Nevada, USA. Journal of Hydrology. 533: 332-342.


 [ Get Acrobat ]  Get the latest version of the Adobe Acrobat reader or Acrobat Reader for Windows with Search and Accessibility

USDA logo which links to the department's national site. Forest Service logo which links to the agency's national site.