Potential drought stress in a Swiss mountain catchment-Ensemble forecasting of high mountain soil moisture reveals a drastic decrease, despite major uncertainties

Rössler, Ole Kristen; Diekkrüger, Bernd; Löffler, Jörg (2012). Potential drought stress in a Swiss mountain catchment-Ensemble forecasting of high mountain soil moisture reveals a drastic decrease, despite major uncertainties. Water resources research, 48(4), W05421. American Geophysical Union 10.1029/2011WR011188

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Climate change is expected to profoundly influence the hydrosphere of mountain ecosystems. The focus of current process-based research is centered on the reaction of glaciers and runoff to climate change; spatially explicit impacts on soil moisture remain widely neglected. We spatio-temporally analyzed the impact of the climate on soil moisture in a mesoscale high mountain catchment to facilitate the development of mitigation and adaptation strategies at the level of vegetation patterns. Two regional climate models were downscaled using three different approaches (statistical downscaling, delta change, and direct use) to drive a hydrological model (WaSiM-ETH) for reference and scenario period (1960–1990 and 2070–2100), resulting in an ensemble forecast of six members. For all ensembles members we found large changes in temperature, resulting in decreasing snow and ice storage and earlier runoff, but only small changes in evapotranspiration. The occurrence of downscaled dry spells was found to fluctuate greatly, causing soil moisture depletion and drought stress potential to show high variability in both space and time. In general, the choice of the downscaling approach had a stronger influence on the results than the applied regional climate model. All of the results indicate that summer soil moisture decreases, which leads to more frequent declines below a critical soil moisture level and an advanced evapotranspiration deficit. Forests up to an elevation of 1800 m a.s.l. are likely to be threatened the most, while alpine areas and most pastures remain nearly unaffected. Nevertheless, the ensemble variability was found to be extremely high and should be interpreted as a bandwidth of possible future drought stress situations.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)

Division/Institute:

08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography > Physical Geography > Unit Hydrology
08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography

UniBE Contributor:

Rössler, Ole Kristen

ISSN:

0043-1397

Publisher:

American Geophysical Union

Language:

English

Submitter:

Factscience Import

Date Deposited:

04 Oct 2013 14:42

Last Modified:

04 Apr 2017 13:35

Publisher DOI:

10.1029/2011WR011188

Web of Science ID:

000303125000002

BORIS DOI:

10.7892/boris.17323

URI:

https://boris.unibe.ch/id/eprint/17323 (FactScience: 225084)

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