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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-2020-516
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2020-516
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  19 Oct 2020

19 Oct 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal HESS.

Future runoff regime changes and their time of emergence for 93 catchments in Switzerland

Regula Muelchi1, Ole Rössler1,a, Jan Schwanbeck1, Rolf Weingartner1,2, and Olivia Martius1,2 Regula Muelchi et al.
  • 1Institute of Geography and Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research, University of Bern, Switzerland
  • 2now at: German Federal Institute of Hydrology (BfG), Germany
  • aMobiliar Lab for Natural Risks, University of Bern, Switzerland

Abstract. Assessments of climate change impacts on runoff regimes are essential for adaptation and mitigation planning. Changing runoff regimes and thus changing seasonal patterns of water availability have strong influence on various sectors such as agriculture, energy production or fishery. In this study, we use the most up to date local climate projections for Switzerland (CH2018) that were downscaled with a post-processing method (quantile mapping). This enables detailed information on changes in runoff regimes and their time of emergence for 93 rivers in Switzerland under three emission pathways RCP2.6, RCP4.5, and RCP8.5.

Changes in seasonal patterns are projected with increasing winter runoff and decreasing summer and autumn runoff. Spring runoff is projected to increase in high elevation catchments and to decrease in lower lying catchments. Despite strong increases in winter and partly in spring, the yearly mean runoff is projected to decrease in most catchments. Results show a strong elevation dependence for the signal and magnitude of change. Compared to lower lying catchments, runoff changes in high elevation catchments (above 1500 masl) are larger in winter, spring, and summer due to the strong influence of reduced snow accumulation and earlier snow melt as well as glacier melt. Under RCP8.5 (RCP2.6) and for catchments with mean altitude below 1500 masl, average relative runoff change in winter is +27 % (+5 %), in spring −5 % (−6 %), in summer −31 % (−4 %), in autumn −21 % (−6 %), and −8 % (−4 %) throughout the year. For catchments with mean elevation above 1500 masl, runoff changes on average by +77 % (+24 %) in winter, by +28 % (+16 %) in spring, by −41 % (−9 %) in summer, by −15 % (−4 %) in autumn, and by −9 % (−0.6 %) in the yearly mean. The changes and the climate model agreement on the signal of change increase with increasing global mean temperatures or stronger emission scenarios. This amplification highlights the importance of climate change mitigation. Under RCP8.5, early times of emergence in winter (before 2065; period 2036–2065) and summer (before 2065) were found for catchments with mean altitudes above 1500 masl. Significant changes in catchments below 1500 masl emerge later in the century. However, not all catchments show a time of emergence in all seasons and in some catchments the detected significant changes are not persistent over time.

Regula Muelchi et al.

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Regula Muelchi et al.

Data sets

Hydro-CH2018-Runoff ensemble Muelchi, Regula; Schwanbeck, Jan; Rössler, Ole; Weingartner, Rolf; Martius, Olivia https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.3937485

Regula Muelchi et al.

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Short summary
Runoff regimes in Switzerland will change significantly under climate change. Projected changes are strongly elevation dependent with earlier and stronger changes in high elevation catchments where snow and glacier melt play an important role. The changes and the climate model agreement on the signal of change increase with increasing global mean temperatures or stronger emission scenarios. This amplification highlights the importance of climate change mitigation.
Runoff regimes in Switzerland will change significantly under climate change. Projected changes...
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