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Application of spatially distributed coupled glacio-hydrological model to predict the effect of glacier recession on the flow of the upper Bow River, Alberta, Canada

, : Application of spatially distributed coupled glacio-hydrological model to predict the effect of glacier recession on the flow of the upper Bow River, Alberta, Canada. American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting

Several recent studies have suggested that observed decreases in summer flows in Canada's South Saskatchewan River are partly due to retreat of glaciers in the river's headwaters. Despite the risk posed by declining glaciers to water supply in the high mountain river systems, our ability to accurately predict runoff contribution from partially glacierized basins is limited. Modeling the effect of glacier changes on streamflow response in such basins is complicated due to limited availability of high resolution gridded meteorological data, lack of long term measurements of glaciological parameters and most importantly glacier dynamics are not linked to hydrological processes in many existing physically-based distributed hydrologic models. We investigate the effect of glacier recession on streamflow variations for the Upper Bow River basin, a tributary of the South Saskatchewan, near Lake Louise, Alberta, using the Distributed Hydrology Soil Vegetation Model (DHSVM) coupled with the spatially distributed glacier dynamics model. The coupled model is forced with the North American Regional Reanalysis (NARR) climate data for the period of 1979 - 2010 at a 3-hourly time step. The NARR data are adjusted for spatial variability in precipitation and temperature using the Parameter-elevation Regressions on Independent Slopes Model (PRISM) monthly data at 2.5 arcmin resolution made available through the Climate Western North America (ClimateWNA) database (Wang et al. 2006). Using known subglacial bed topography information, a multidecade spin-up run of the stand alone glacier model is first conducted until the beginning of the simulation period for the coupled model to accurately predict ice thickness confirmed through comparison of modeled ice margins with observed glacier extent. The integrated model initialized with already estimated glacier thickness and ice extent is then run to predict glacier evolution, including spatial extent in combination with other hydrologic processes such as glacier/snow melt, surface runoff, baseflow and evapotranspiration. We test the coupled glacio-hydrologic model performance through comparison of predicted variations in glacier extent, snow water equivalent and streamflow discharge with satellite estimates of glacier area and terminus position combined with stream discharge and observed snow data. Our initial results show the effects on the hydrology of the Bow River as related to retreat of the glacier and its replacement with seasonal snow cover, and the differences in melt and runoff generation associated with this transition.


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