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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Relative importance of glacier contributions to water supply in a changing climate

item Rango, Albert - Al
item Martinec, Jaroslav
item Roberts, Ralph

Submitted to: World Resource Review
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/29/2008
Publication Date: 8/1/2008
Citation: Rango, A., Martinec, J., Roberts, R.T. 2008. Relative importance of glacier contributions to water supply in a changing climate. World Resource Review. 20:487-503.

Interpretive Summary: Global warming has become a concern because of the potential impact on water supplies. In order to assess the future consequence on Streamflow, a hydrologic model that considers the contribution of rainfall, snowmelt, and glacier melt is required. The Snowmelt Runoff Model (SRM) has these features and it also has a formalized climate change algorithm that allows both temperature and precipitation to be modified. In a warmer climate of +4° C, glacier melt contributing to Streamflow will increase by 8.5% annually in the glacierized Illecillewaet basin in British Columbia. Precipitation changes can be even more dramatic, but there is no consensus on how precipitation will change in the future like there is for temperature. The contribution of a glacier to Streamflow will eventually diminish as glacier area decreases until the glacier eventually disappears. Water managers in glacierized basins need to plan for such changes in their basins.

Technical Abstract: The Snowmelt Runoff Model (SRM) was designed for simulation, forecasting, and future assessments, such as the effects of climate change. The most recent version of SRM uses the Microsoft Windows operating system and operates efficiently in the PC environment. A formalized algorithm for assessing the effects of climate change on runoff is included in the model. SRM parameters are predetermined from actual measurements or from hydrological experience and, therefore, calibration is not necessary. This deterministic approach allows the parameters to be altered with regard to a changed future climate. SRM variables of daily temperature, precipitation, and snow covered area are also easily acquired. SRM allows contributions of snow, rain, and glacier ice to be separately computed for a present year and for a future climate-changed year. In basins with a significant glacier melt component, such as the Illecillewaet Basin in British Columbia, as the climate warms, the glacier runoff component increases. Of course, when the glacier volume is depleted to a certain point, the glacier areas will start to decline and the valuable glacier melt component will also be diminished.

Last Modified: 06/23/2017
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