10 May 2022
10 May 2022
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal HESS.

Future snow changes and their impact on the upstream runoff in Salween

Chenhao Chai1,2, Lei Wang1,2, Deliang Chen3, Jing Zhou1, Hu Liu1,2, Jingtian Zhang1,2, Yuanwei Wang4, and Tao Chen5 Chenhao Chai et al.
  • 1State Key Laboratory of Tibetan Plateau Earth System, Resources and Environment (TPESRE), Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101, China
  • 2The University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China
  • 3Department of Earth Sciences, University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, 40530, Sweden
  • 4School of Geographical Sciences, Nanjing University of Information Science & Technology, Nanjing, China
  • 5School of Geography and Planning, Sun Yat-Sen University, Guangzhou 510275, China

Abstract. Understanding the hydrological processes related to snow in global mountainous regions under climate change is necessary for achieving regional water and food security (e.g., the United Nation’s sustainable development goals (SDGs) 2 and 6). However, the impacts of future snow changes on the hydrological processes in the high mountains of the Third Pole are still largely unclear. In this study, we aimed to project future snow changes and their impacts on the hydrology in the upstream region of Salween (US) under the SSP126 and SSP585 emission scenarios using a physically-based cryosphere–hydrology model. We found that in the future, the climate would become warmer (SSP126: 0.2 °C • 10 yr-1; SSP585 : 0.7 °C • 10 yr-1) and wetter (SPP126 (5 mm 10 yr-1) and SSP585 (27.8 mm 10 yr-1)) in the US under these two shared socioeconomic pathways (SSPs). Under this context, the snowfall, snow cover, snow water equivalent, and snowmelt runoff are projected to exhibit significant decreasing trends during 1995–2100, and the decreases are projected to be most prominent in summer and autumn. The future (2021–2100) snowmelt runoff is projected to significantly increase in spring compared to the reference period (1995–2014), which would benefit the availability of water resources in the growing season. The annual total runoff would significantly increase in all the future periods due to increased rainfall, which would increase the availability of water resources within the basin, but the high peak flow that occurs in summer may cause rain flooding with short duration and high intensity. Compared to the reference period (the contribution of snowmelt runoff to the total runoff was determined to be 17.5 %), the rain–snow-dominated pattern of runoff would shift to a rain-dominated pattern after the near term (2021–2040) under SSP585, while it would remain largely unchanged under SSP126. Climate change would mainly change the pattern of the snowmelt runoff, but it would not change the annual hydrograph pattern (dominated by increased rainfall). These findings improve our understanding of the responses of cryosphere–hydrological processes under climate change, providing valuable information for integrated water resource management, natural disaster prevention, and ecological environmental protection at the Third Pole.

Chenhao Chai et al.

Status: open (until 05 Jul 2022)

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Chenhao Chai et al.

Chenhao Chai et al.


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Short summary
Our study quantified the future snow changes and their impacts on the hydrology in the upper Salween under SSP126 and SSP585 by a cryosphere–hydrology model. Future warm-wet climate wasn’t conducive to the development of snow. The rain-snow-dominated pattern of runoff would shift to a rain-dominated pattern after 2040s under SSP585 but unchanged under SSP126. The findings improve our understanding of the cryosphere-hydrology processes and can assist water resources management in the Third Pole.