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Special Issue "Effects of Climate Change on the Hydrology and Water Quality of Snow-Dominated Mountainous Environments"

A special issue of Water (ISSN 2073-4441). This special issue belongs to the section "Hydrology".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (28 February 2018)

Special Issue Editors

Guest Editor
Dr. Graham A. Sexstone

US Geological Survey, Denver, CO 80225, USA
Website | E-Mail
Interests: snow hydrology; mountain hydrology; hydrometeorology; climate change; water availability; snow chemistry; atmospheric deposition
Guest Editor
Dr. David W. Clow

US Geological Survey, Denver, CO 80225, USA
Website | E-Mail
Interests: biogeochemistry; mountain environments; atmospheric pollution; climate change; snowpack

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

In many mountainous regions of the world, water for ecological and human needs is derived from snow that accumulates during the winter and spring, and melts during the spring and summer each year. These seasonal snowpacks serve as large natural water reservoirs that are particular sensitive to effects of climate warming, including shifts in the fraction of precipitation falling as snow versus rain, lower peak snow water content, earlier snowmelt timing, and shorter snow-cover duration. Changes to snow dynamics can profoundly influence the hydrology and water quality of snow-dominated mountainous environments. Given projected changes to air temperature and precipitation in mountains of the globe, there is an urgent need for improved understanding of how both water availability and water quality will respond to changing snowpack conditions. In this Special Issue of Water, we invite submissions focusing on the effects of climate change on the hydrology and water quality of snow-dominated mountainous regions through field-based investigations, remote sensing observations, and/or modeling experiments. We encourage papers that focus on how changes to snow dynamics will influence the timing and magnitude of streamflow runoff, hydrologic flowpaths, soil moisture, and biogeochemical nutrient cycling.

Dr. Graham A. Sexstone
Dr. David W. Clow
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Water is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1500 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Climate change
  • Mountains
  • Snow hydrology
  • Hydrologic pathways
  • Streamflow generation
  • Water quality
  • Biogeochemistry

Published Papers (9 papers)

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Research

Open AccessArticle Climate Trends Impact on the Snowfall Regime in Mediterranean Mountain Areas: Future Scenario Assessment in Sierra Nevada (Spain)
Water 2018, 10(6), 720; https://doi.org/10.3390/w10060720
Received: 1 March 2018 / Revised: 25 May 2018 / Accepted: 30 May 2018 / Published: 1 June 2018
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Abstract
Snow constitutes a key component of the water cycle, which is directly affected by changes in climate. Mountainous regions, especially those located in semiarid environments, are highly vulnerable to shifts from snowfall to rainfall. This study evaluates the influence of future climate scenarios
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Snow constitutes a key component of the water cycle, which is directly affected by changes in climate. Mountainous regions, especially those located in semiarid environments, are highly vulnerable to shifts from snowfall to rainfall. This study evaluates the influence of future climate scenarios on the snowfall regime in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, an Alpine/Mediterranean climate region in southern Spain. Precipitation and temperature projections from two future climate scenarios representative concentration pathway (RCP) 4.5 and RCP 8.5, Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (AR5 IPCC)) were used to estimate the projected evolution of the snowfall regime on both annual and decadal scales during the period of 2006–2100. Specific snowfall descriptors of torrentiality are also analyzed. A general decrease of the annual snowfall was estimated, with a significant trend that ranged from 0.21 to 0.55 (mm·year−1)·year−1. These changes are dependent on the scenario and region in the study area. However, the major impact of future climate scenarios on the snowfall regime relates to an increased torrentiality of snowfall occurrence, with a decreased trend of the annual number of snowfall days (RCP 4.5: −0.068 (days·year−1)·year−1 and RCP 8.5: −0.111 (days·year−1)·year−1) and an increased trend in the annual mean snowfall intensity (RCP 4.5: 0.006 (mm·days−1)·year−1 and RCP8.5: 0.01 (mm·days−1)·year−1)) under both scenarios. This enhanced torrentiality is heterogeneously distributed, with the most semiarid region, which is currently the one least influenced by snow, being the region most affected within the study area. Full article
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Open AccessFeature PaperArticle Alaska Snowpack Response to Climate Change: Statewide Snowfall Equivalent and Snowpack Water Scenarios
Water 2018, 10(5), 668; https://doi.org/10.3390/w10050668
Received: 30 March 2018 / Revised: 19 May 2018 / Accepted: 21 May 2018 / Published: 22 May 2018
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Abstract
Climatically driven changes in snow characteristics (snowfall, snowpack, and snowmelt) will affect hydrologic and ecological systems in Alaska over the coming century, yet there exist no projections of downscaled future snow pack metrics for the state of Alaska. We updated historical and projected
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Climatically driven changes in snow characteristics (snowfall, snowpack, and snowmelt) will affect hydrologic and ecological systems in Alaska over the coming century, yet there exist no projections of downscaled future snow pack metrics for the state of Alaska. We updated historical and projected snow day fraction (PSF, the fraction of days with precipitation falling as snow) from McAfee et al. We developed modeled snowfall equivalent (SFE) derived from the product of snow-day fraction (PSF) and existing gridded precipitation for Alaska from Scenarios Network for Alaska and Arctic Planning (SNAP). We validated the assumption that modeled SFE approximates historical decadally averaged snow water equivalent (SWE) observations from snowcourse and Snow Telemetry (SNOTEL) sites. We present analyses of future downscaled PSF and two new products, October–March SFE and ratio of snow fall equivalent to precipitation (SFE:P) based on bias-corrected statistically downscaled projections of Coupled Model Intercomparison Project 5 (CMIP5) Global Climate Model (GCM) temperature and precipitation for the state of Alaska. We analyzed mid-century (2040–2069) and late-century (2070–2099) changes in PSF, SFE, and SFE:P relative to historical (1970–1999) mean temperature and present results for Alaska climate divisions and 12-digit Hydrologic Unit Code (HUC12) watersheds. Overall, estimated historical the SFE is reasonably well related to the observed SWE, with correlations over 0.75 in all decades, and correlations exceeding 0.9 in the 1960s and 1970s. In absolute terms, SFE is generally biased low compared to the observed SWE. PSF and SFE:P decrease universally across Alaska under both Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP) 4.5 and RCP 8.5 emissions scenarios, with the smallest changes for RCP 4.5 in 2040–2069 and the largest for RCP 8.5 in 2070–2099. The timing and magnitude of maximum decreases in PSF vary considerably with regional average temperature, with the largest changes in months at the beginning and end of the snow season. Mean SFE changes vary widely among climate divisions, ranging from decreases between −17 and −58% for late twenty-first century in southeast, southcentral, west coast and southwest Alaska to increases up to 21% on the North Slope. SFE increases most at highest elevations and latitudes and decreases most in coastal southern Alaska. SFE:P ratios indicate a broad switch from snow-dominated to transitional annual hydrology across most of southern Alaska by mid-century, and from transitional to rain-dominated watersheds in low elevation parts of southeast Alaska by the late twenty-first century. Full article
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Open AccessFeature PaperArticle Sub-Seasonal Snowpack Trends in the Rocky Mountain National Park Area, Colorado, USA
Water 2018, 10(5), 562; https://doi.org/10.3390/w10050562
Received: 11 April 2018 / Revised: 22 April 2018 / Accepted: 24 April 2018 / Published: 26 April 2018
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Abstract
We present a detailed study of the snowpack trends in the Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) using snow telemetry and snow course data at a monthly resolution. We examine the past 35 years (1981 to 2016) to explore monthly patterns over 36 locations
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We present a detailed study of the snowpack trends in the Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) using snow telemetry and snow course data at a monthly resolution. We examine the past 35 years (1981 to 2016) to explore monthly patterns over 36 locations and used some additional data to help interpret the changes. The analysis is at a finer spatial and temporal scale than previous studies that focused more on aggregate- or regional-scale changes. The trends in the first of the month’s snow water equivalent (SWE) varied more than the change in the monthly SWE, monthly precipitation or mean temperature. There was greater variability in SWE trends on the west side of the study area, and on average the declines in the west were greater. At higher elevations, there was more of a decline in the SWE. Changes in the climate were much less in winter than in summer. Per decade, the average decline in the winter precipitation was 4 mm and temperatures warmed by 0.29 °C, while the summer precipitation declined by 9 mm and temperatures rose by 0.66 °C. In general, November and March became warmer and drier, yielding a decline of the SWE on December 1st and April 1st, while December through February and May became wetter. February and May became cooler. Full article
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Open AccessArticle Analysis of Anthropogenic, Climatological, and Morphological Influences on Dissolved Organic Matter in Rocky Mountain Streams
Water 2018, 10(4), 534; https://doi.org/10.3390/w10040534
Received: 27 February 2018 / Revised: 10 April 2018 / Accepted: 13 April 2018 / Published: 23 April 2018
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Abstract
In recent decades, the Rocky Mountains (RM) have undergone significant changes associated with anthropogenic activities and natural disturbances. These changes have the potential to alter primary productivity and biomass carbon storage. In particular, dissolved organic carbon (DOC) in RM streams can affect heterotrophic
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In recent decades, the Rocky Mountains (RM) have undergone significant changes associated with anthropogenic activities and natural disturbances. These changes have the potential to alter primary productivity and biomass carbon storage. In particular, dissolved organic carbon (DOC) in RM streams can affect heterotrophic processes, act as a source for the nutrient cycle, absorb sunlight radiation, alter metal transport, and can promote the production of carcinogenic byproducts during water treatment. Recent studies have focused on the relationship between bark beetle infestations and stream organic matter but have reached conflicting conclusions. Consequently, here we compile and process multiple datasets representing features of the RM for the period 1983–2012 with the purpose of assessing their relative influence on stream DOC concentrations using spatial statistical modeling. Features representing climate, land cover, forest disturbances, topography, soil types, and anthropogenic activities are included. We focus on DOC during base-flow conditions in RM streams because base-flow concentrations are more representative of the longer-term (annual to decadal) impacts and are less dependent on episodic, short-term storm and runoff/erosion events. To predict DOC throughout the network, we use a stream network model in a 56,550 km2 area to address the intrinsic connectivity and hydrologic directionality of the stream network. Natural forest disturbances are positively correlated with increased DOC concentrations; however, the effect of urbanization is far greater. Similarly, higher maximum temperatures, which can be exacerbated by climate change, are also associated with elevated DOC concentrations. Overall, DOC concentrations present an increasing trend over time in the RM region. Full article
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Open AccessArticle The Temporal and Spatial Variations in Lake Surface Areas in Xinjiang, China
Water 2018, 10(4), 431; https://doi.org/10.3390/w10040431
Received: 22 November 2017 / Revised: 13 March 2018 / Accepted: 30 March 2018 / Published: 4 April 2018
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Abstract
In arid areas, lakes play important roles in sustaining the local ecology, mitigating flood hazard, and restricting economic activity of society. In this study, we used multi-temporal satellite data to study annual variations in 16 natural lakes with individual surface areas over 10
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In arid areas, lakes play important roles in sustaining the local ecology, mitigating flood hazard, and restricting economic activity of society. In this study, we used multi-temporal satellite data to study annual variations in 16 natural lakes with individual surface areas over 10 km2, categorized into six regions based on their geographical and climatic information and on their relations with climate variables. Results indicated that annual variations in lake surface areas are different across these six regions. The surface area of Kanas Lake has not obviously changed due to its typical U-shape cross section; the areas of Ulungur Lake and Jili Lake increased sharply in the 1980s and then slightly decreased; the areas of Sayram Lake, Ebinur Lake, and Bosten Lake increased and then decreased, with peaks detected in the early 2000s; the areas of Barkol Lake and Toale Culler decreased, while those of the lakes located in the Kunlun Mountains steadily increased. Lake areas also show various relationships with climate variables. There is no obvious relationship between area and climate variables in Kanas Lake due to the specific lake morphology; the areas of most lakes showed positive correlations with annual precipitation (except Sayram Lake). A negative correlation between area and temperature were detected in Ulungur Lake, Jili Lake, Barkol Lake, and Toale Culler, while positive correlations were suggested in Bosten Lake and the lakes in the Kunlun Mountains (e.g., Saligil Kollakan Lake, Aksai Chin Lake, and Urukkule Lake). Full article
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Open AccessArticle Hydrologic Regime Changes in a High-Latitude Glacierized Watershed under Future Climate Conditions
Water 2018, 10(2), 128; https://doi.org/10.3390/w10020128
Received: 27 October 2017 / Revised: 12 December 2017 / Accepted: 20 December 2017 / Published: 30 January 2018
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Abstract
A calibrated conceptual glacio-hydrological monthly water balance model (MWBMglacier) was used to evaluate future changes in water partitioning in a high-latitude glacierized watershed in Southcentral Alaska under future climate conditions. The MWBMglacier was previously calibrated and evaluated against streamflow measurements, literature values of
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A calibrated conceptual glacio-hydrological monthly water balance model (MWBMglacier) was used to evaluate future changes in water partitioning in a high-latitude glacierized watershed in Southcentral Alaska under future climate conditions. The MWBMglacier was previously calibrated and evaluated against streamflow measurements, literature values of glacier mass balance change, and satellite-based observations of snow covered area, evapotranspiration, and total water storage. Output from five global climate models representing two future climate scenarios (RCP 4.5 and RCP 8.5) was used with the previously calibrated parameters to drive the MWBMglacier at 2 km spatial resolution. Relative to the historical period 1949–2009, precipitation will increase and air temperature in the mountains will be above freezing for an additional two months per year by mid-century which significantly impacts snow/rain partitioning and the generation of meltwater from snow and glaciers. Analysis of the period 1949–2099 reveals that numerous hydrologic regime shifts already occurred or are projected to occur in the study area including glacier accumulation area, snow covered area, and forest vulnerability. By the end of the century, Copper River discharge is projected to increase by 48%, driven by 21% more precipitation and 53% more glacial melt water (RCP 8.5) relative to the historical period (1949–2009). Full article
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Open AccessArticle Climate Change Impacts on Flow and Suspended Sediment Yield in Headwaters of High-Latitude Regions—A Case Study in China’s Far Northeast
Water 2017, 9(12), 966; https://doi.org/10.3390/w9120966
Received: 10 October 2017 / Revised: 15 November 2017 / Accepted: 7 December 2017 / Published: 11 December 2017
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Abstract
Climate change is expected to have stronger effects on water resources in higher latitude regions. Despite intensive research on possible hydrological responses in those regions to a warmer environment, our knowledge on erosion and sediment yield induced by the climate change in high-latitude
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Climate change is expected to have stronger effects on water resources in higher latitude regions. Despite intensive research on possible hydrological responses in those regions to a warmer environment, our knowledge on erosion and sediment yield induced by the climate change in high-latitude headwaters is still limited. In this study, we estimated suspended sediment yields from 2021 to 2050 in a typical headwater area of far Northeast China to elucidate potential impacts of future climate change on surface runoff and erosion in higher latitude regions. We first parameterized the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) using historical measurements to estimate runoff from the river basin. The model performed well in both the calibration (2006–2011) and the validation (2012–2014) periods, with an R2 of 0.85 and 0.88 and a Nash-Sutcliffe Efficiency (NSE) of 0.7 and 0.73, respectively. We also utilized historical measurements on sediment yields from the period 2006–2014 to develop a runoff-sediment yield rating curve, and the rating curve obtained an excellent goodness of fit (R2 = 0.91, p < 0.001). We then applied the calibrated SWAT model to two climate change projections, also known as Representative Concentration Pathways (RCP4.5 and RCP8.5), for the period from 2021 to 2050 to obtain future runoff estimates. These runoff estimates were then used to predict future sediment yield by using the developed runoff-sediment yield rating curve. Our study found a significant increase of annual sediment yield (p < 0.05) for both climate change projections (RCP4.5 = 237%; RCP8.5 = 133%) in this, China’s high-latitude region. The increases of sediment yield were prevalent in summer and autumn, varying from 102–299% between the two RCPs scenarios. Precipitation was the dominated factor that determined the variation of runoff and sediment yield. A warming climate could bring more snowmelt-induced spring runoff and longer rainy days in autumn, hence leading to higher erosion. These findings demonstrate that under the changing climate, soils in this high-latitude headwater area would be eroded twice to three times that of the baseline period (1981–2010), indicating a potential risk to the downstream water quality and reservoir management. Full article
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Open AccessArticle Spatial and Temporal Variations of Snow Cover in the Karoon River Basin, Iran, 2003–2015
Water 2017, 9(12), 965; https://doi.org/10.3390/w9120965
Received: 25 September 2017 / Revised: 17 November 2017 / Accepted: 6 December 2017 / Published: 11 December 2017
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Abstract
The Karoon River Basin, with an area of about 67,000 km2, is located in the southern part of Iran and has a complex mountainous terrain. No comprehensive study has been done on the spatial and temporal variations of snow cover in
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The Karoon River Basin, with an area of about 67,000 km2, is located in the southern part of Iran and has a complex mountainous terrain. No comprehensive study has been done on the spatial and temporal variations of snow cover in this region to date. In this paper, daily snow data of Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer MODIS Terra (MOD10A1) and MODIS Aqua (MYD10A1) were examined from 1 January 2003 to 31 December 2015, to analyze snow cover variations. Due to difficulties created by cloud cover effects, it was crucial to reduce cloud contamination in the daily time series. Therefore, two common cloud removal methods were applied on the daily data. The results suggested that in winter nearly 43% of the Basin’s area experienced a negative trend, while only 1.4% of the Basin had a positive trend for snow-covered days (SCD); trends in fall and spring were less evident in the data. Using a digital elevation model of the Basin, the trends of SCD in 100 m elevation intervals were calculated, indicating a significant positive trend in SCD during the fall season above 3500 m. Full article
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Open AccessArticle Winter Snow Level Rise in the Northern Sierra Nevada from 2008 to 2017
Water 2017, 9(11), 899; https://doi.org/10.3390/w9110899
Received: 10 October 2017 / Revised: 14 November 2017 / Accepted: 15 November 2017 / Published: 18 November 2017
Cited by 5 | PDF Full-text (5268 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
The partitioning of precipitation into frozen and liquid components influences snow-derived water resources and flood hazards in mountain environments. We used a 915-MHz Doppler radar wind profiler upstream of the northern Sierra Nevada to estimate the hourly elevation where snow melts to rain,
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The partitioning of precipitation into frozen and liquid components influences snow-derived water resources and flood hazards in mountain environments. We used a 915-MHz Doppler radar wind profiler upstream of the northern Sierra Nevada to estimate the hourly elevation where snow melts to rain, or the snow level, during winter (December–February) precipitation events spanning water years (WY) 2008–2017. During this ten-year period, a Mann-Kendall test indicated a significant (p < 0.001) positive trend in snow level with a Thiel-Sen slope of 72 m year−1. We estimated total precipitation falling as snow (snow fraction) between WY1951 and 2017 using nine daily mid-elevation (1200–2000 m) climate stations and two hourly stations spanning WY2008–2017. The climate-station-based snow fraction estimates agreed well with snow-level radar values (R2 = 0.95, p < 0.01), indicating that snow fractions represent a reasonable method to estimate changes in frozen precipitation. Snow fraction significantly (p < 0.001) declined during WY2008–2017 at a rate of 0.035 (3.5%) year−1. Single-point correlations between detrended snow fraction and sea-surface temperatures (SST) suggested that positive SST anomalies along the California coast favor liquid phase precipitation during winter. Reanalysis-derived integrated moisture transported upstream of the northern Sierra Nevada was negatively correlated with snow fraction (R2 = 0.90, p < 0.01), with atmospheric rivers representing the likely circulation mechanism producing low-snow-fraction storms. Full article
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