Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2021-512
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2021-512

  22 Oct 2021

22 Oct 2021

Review status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal HESS.

Quantifying the glacial meltwater contribution to streams in mountainous regions using highly resolved stable water isotope measurements

Philipp Wanner1, Noemi Buri2, Kevin Wyss2, Andreas Zischg2, Rolf Weingartner2, Jan Baumgartner3, Benjamin Berger3, and Christoph Wanner4 Philipp Wanner et al.
  • 1Department of Earth Sciences, University of Gothenburg, Guldhedsgatan 5A, 413 20 Gothenburg, Sweden
  • 2Institute of Geography, University of Bern, Hallerstrasse 12, 3012 Bern, Switzerland
  • 3Kraftwerke Oberhasli AG (KWO), Grimselstrasse 19, 3862 Innertkirchen, Switzerland
  • 4Institute of Geological Sciences, University of Bern, Baltzerstrasse 1+3, 3012 Bern

Abstract. This study aims to determine the contribution of glacial meltwater to streams in mountainous regions based on stable water isotope measurements (δ18O and δ2H). For this purpose, three partially glaciated catchments were selected as the study area in the central Swiss Alps being representative of catchments that are used for hydropower energy production in Alpine regions. The glacial meltwater contribution to the catchments’ stream discharges was evaluated based on high-resolution δ18O and δ2H measurements of the end-members that contribute to the stream discharge (ice, rain, snow) and of the discharging streams. The glacial meltwater contribution to the stream discharges could be unequivocally quantified after the snowmelt in August and September when most of the annual glacial meltwater discharge occurs. In August and September, the glacial meltwater contribution to the stream discharges corresponds to up to 95 ± 2 % and to 28.7 % ± 5 % of the total annual discharge in the evaluated catchments. The high glacial meltwater contribution demonstrates that the mountainous stream discharges in August and September will probably strongly decrease in the future due to global warming-induced deglaciation, which will be, however, likely compensated by higher discharge rates in winter and spring. Nevertheless, the changing mountainous streamflow regimes in the future will pose a challenge for hydropower energy production in the mountainous areas. Overall, this study provides a successful example of an Alpine catchment monitoring strategy to quantify the glacial meltwater contribution to stream discharges based on stable isotope water data, which leads to a better validation of existing modelling studies and which can be adapted to other mountainous regions.

Philipp Wanner et al.

Status: open (until 06 Jan 2022)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Review of hess-2021-512', Bettina Schaefli, 18 Nov 2021 reply
  • RC2: 'Comment on hess-2021-512', Anonymous Referee #2, 29 Nov 2021 reply

Philipp Wanner et al.

Data sets

Discharge Data Giglibach, Steinwasser, Wendenwasser catchments Philipp Wanner, Noemi Buri, Kevin Wyss, Andreas Zischg, Rolf Weingartner, Jan Baumgartner, Benjamin Berger, Christoph Wanner https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.5571465

Philipp Wanner et al.

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Short summary
In this study, we quantified the glacial meltwater contribution to mountainous streams using high-resolution stable water isotope analysis. The glacial meltwater made up almost 28 % of the annual mountainous stream discharges. This high contribution demonstrates that the mountainous streamflow regimes will change in the future when the glacial meltwater contribution will disappear due to global warming posing a major challenge for hydropower energy production in mountainous regions.