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Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2020-491
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2020-491
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  17 Oct 2020

17 Oct 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal HESS.

Summary and synthesis of Changing Cold Regions Network (CCRN) research in the interior of western Canada – Part 2: Future change in cryosphere, vegetation, and hydrology

Chris M. DeBeer1,2, Howard S. Wheater1,2,3, John W. Pomeroy1,2, Alan G. Barr2,4, Jennifer L. Baltzer5, Jill F. Johnstone6,7, Merritt R. Turetsky8,9, Ronald E. Stewart10, Masaki Hayashi11, Garth van der Kamp2, Shawn Marshall12,13, Elizabeth Campbell14, Philip Marsh15, Sean K. Carey16, William L. Quinton15, Yanping Li2, Saman Razavi2, Aaron Berg17, Jeffrey J. McDonnell2,18, Christopher Spence19, Warren D. Helgason20, Andrew M. Ireson2, T. Andrew Black21, Bruce Davison19, Allan Howard22, Julie M. Thériault23, Kevin Shook1, and Alain Pietroniro19 Chris M. DeBeer et al.
  • 1Centre for Hydrology, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada
  • 2Global Institute for Water Security, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada
  • 3Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Imperial College London, London, United Kingdom
  • 4Climate Research Division, Environment and Climate Change Canada, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada
  • 5Biology Department, Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
  • 6Department of Biology, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada
  • 7Institute of Arctic Biology, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, Alaska, United States
  • 8Department of Integrative Biology, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada
  • 9Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, University of Colorado Boulder, Boulder, Colorado, United States
  • 10Department of Environment and Geography, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
  • 11Department of Geoscience, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
  • 12Department of Geography, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
  • 13Environment and Climate Change Canada, Gatineau, Quebec, Canada
  • 14Natural Resources Canada, Canadian Forest Service, Pacific Forestry Centre, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
  • 15Cold Regions Research Centre, Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
  • 16School of Geography and Earth Sciences, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
  • 17Department of Geography,Environment and Geomatics, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada
  • 18School of Geography, Earth & Environmental Sciences, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham, United Kingdom
  • 19National Hydrology Research Centre, Environment and Climate Change Canada, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada
  • 20Chemical and Biological Engineering, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada
  • 21Faculty of Land and Food Systems, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
  • 22Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada
  • 23Centre ESCER, Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Université du Québec à Montréal, Montréal, Quebec, Canada

Abstract. The interior of western Canada, like many similar cold mid- to high-latitude regions worldwide, is undergoing extensive and rapid climate and environmental change, which may accelerate in the coming decades. Understanding and predicting changes in coupled climate–land–hydrological systems are crucial to society, yet limited by lack of understanding of changes in cold region process responses and interactions, along with their representation in most current generation land surface and hydrological models. It is essential to consider the underlying processes and base predictive models on the proper physics, especially under conditions of non-stationarity where the past is no longer a reliable guide to the future and system trajectories can be unexpected. These challenges were forefront in the recently completed Changing Cold Regions Network (CCRN), which assembled and focused a wide range of multi-disciplinary expertise to improve the understanding, diagnosis, and prediction of change over the cold interior of western Canada. CCRN advanced knowledge of fundamental cold region ecological and hydrological processes through observation and experimentation across a network of highly instrumented research basins and other sites. Significant efforts were made to improve the functionality and process representation, based on this improved understanding, within the fine-scale Cold Regions Hydrological Modelling (CRHM) platform and the large-scale Modélisation Environmentale Communautaire (MEC) – Surface and Hydrology (MESH) model. These models were, and continue to be, applied under past and projected future climates, and under current and expected future land and vegetation cover configurations to diagnose historical change and predict possible future hydrological responses. This second of two articles synthesizes the nature and understanding of cold region processes and Earth system responses to future climate, as advanced by CCRN. These include changing precipitation and moisture feedbacks to the atmosphere; altered snow regimes, changing balance of snowfall and rainfall, and glacier loss; vegetation responses to climate and the loss of ecosystem resilience to wildfire and disturbance; thawing permafrost and its influence on landscapes and hydrology; groundwater storage and cycling, and its connections to surface water; and stream and river discharge as influenced by the various drivers of hydrological change. Collective insights, expert elicitation, and model application are used to provide a synthesis of this change over the CCRN region for the late-21st century.

Chris M. DeBeer et al.

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Short summary
This article examines future changes in land cover and hydrological cycling across the interior of western Canada under climate conditions projected for the 21st century. Key insights into the mechanisms and interactions of Earth system and hydrological process responses are presented, and this understanding is used together with model application to provide a synthesis of future change. This has allowed more scientifically-informed projections than have hitherto been available.
This article examines future changes in land cover and hydrological cycling across the interior...
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