Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2021-562
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2021-562

  06 Dec 2021

06 Dec 2021

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

A comparison of hydrological models with different level of complexity in Alpine regions in the context of climate change

Francesca Carletti1, Adrien Michel1,2, Francesca Casale3, Daniele Bocchiola3, Michael Lehning1,2, and Mathias Bavay1 Francesca Carletti et al.
  • 1WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research (SLF), Davos, Switzerland
  • 2School of Architecture, Civil and Environmental Engineering, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland
  • 3Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Politecnico di Milano, Milano, Italy

Abstract. This study compares the ability of two degree-day models (Poli-Hydro and a degree-day implementation of Alpine3D) and one full energy-balance melt model (Alpine3D) to predict the discharge on two partly glacierized Alpine catchments of different size and intensity of exploitation, under present conditions and climate change as projected at the end of the century. For present climate, the magnitude of snow melt predicted by Poli-Hydro is sensibly lower than the one predicted by the other melt schemes, and the melting season is delayed by one month. This difference can be explained by the combined effect of the reduced complexity of the melting scheme and the reduced computational temporal resolution. The degree-day implementation of Alpine3D reproduces a melt season closer to the one obtained with its full solver; in fact, the onset of the degree-day mode still depends upon the full energy-balance solver, thus not bringing any particular benefit in terms of inputs and computational load, unlike with Poli-Hydro. Under climate change conditions, Alpine3D is more sensitive than Poli-Hydro, reproducing discharge curves and volumes shifted by one month earlier as a consequence of the earlier onset of snow melt. Despite their benefits, the coarser temporal computational resolution and the fixed monthly degree-days of simpler melt models like Poli-Hydro make them controversial to use for climate change applications with respect to energy-balance ones. Nevertheless, under strong river regulation, the influence of calibration might even overshadow the benefits of a full energy-balance scheme.

Francesca Carletti et al.

Status: open (until 31 Jan 2022)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Review for hess-2021-562', Anonymous Referee #1, 01 Jan 2022 reply

Francesca Carletti et al.

Francesca Carletti et al.

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Short summary
High Alpine catchments are dominated by the melting of seasonal snow cover and glaciers, whose amount and seasonality are expected to be modified by climate change. This paper compares the performances of different types of models in reproducing discharge among two catchments under present conditions and climate change. Despite many advantages, the use of simpler models for climate change applications is controversial as they don't fully reproduce the physics of the involved processes.