Response of snow cover and runoff to climate change in high Alpine catchments of Eastern Switzerland
A model study on the impact of climate change on snow cover and runoff has been conducted for the Swiss Canton of Graubünden. The model Alpine3D has been forced with the data from 35 Automatic Weather Stations in order to investigate snow and runoff dynamics for the current climate. The data set has then been modified to reflect climate change as predicted for the 2021-2050 and 2070-2095 periods from an ensemble of regional climate models. The predicted changes in snow cover will be moderate for 2021-2050 and become drastic in the second half of the century. Towards the end of the century the snow cover changes will roughly be equivalent to an elevation shift of 800 m. Seasonal snow water equivalents will decrease by one to two thirds and snow seasons will be shortened by five to nine weeks in 2095. Small, higher elevation catchments will show more winter runoff, earlier spring melt peaks and reduced summer runoff. Where glacierized areas exist, the transitional increase in glacier melt will initially offset losses from snow melt. Larger catchments, which reach lower elevations will show much smaller changes since they are already dominated by summer precipitation. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.