New research has shown for the first time that the amount of water flowing through rivers in snow-affected regions depends significantly on how much of the precipitation falls as snowfall. This means in a warming climate, if less of the precipitation falls as snow, rivers will discharge less water than they currently do.
The study by PhD student Wouter Berghuijs and Dr Ross Woods, Senior Lecturer in Water and Environmental Engineering in the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Bristol together with a colleague from Delft University of Technology is published online in Nature Climate Change.
The researchers, using historical data from several hundred river basins located across the United States, investigated the effect of snow on the amount of water that rivers discharge.
How river flow is generated in snowy areas is poorly understood due to the difficulty in getting appropriate measurements. Previous studies have mostly focused on the role of snowfall for the within-year distribution of streamflow - how much water is there in the river during a particular period of the year - and assumed that there was no important effect of snow on the average streamflow. This study is the first to focus on the role of snow for how much water is on average available in rivers.
With data from 420 catchments located throughout the United States the researchers show that snowiness is an important factor for the average river discharge.
Global warming is very likely to reduce the amount of snow significantly in snow-affected catchments, even if temperatures rise only two degrees Celsius. The new research suggests that the amount of water in rivers will be reduced as a result of the decrease in snow.
The authors of the study said: "With more than one-sixth of the Earth's population depending on meltwater for their water supply, and ecosystems that can be sensitive to streamflow alterations, the socio-economic consequences of a reduction in streamflow can be substantial.
"Our finding is particularly relevant to regions where societally important functions, such ecosystem stability, hydropower, irrigation, and industrial or domestic water supply are derived from snowmelt."
Given this importance of streamflow for society, the researchers propose that further studies are required to respond to the consequences of a temperature-induced precipitation shift from snow to rain.
Paper: A precipitation shift from snow towards rain leads to a decrease in streamflow, W. R. Berghuijs, R. A.Woods and M. Hrachowitz, Nature Climate Change, Vol 4, June 2014.
Notes to editors:
About Nature Climate Change
Nature Climate Change is a monthly journal dedicated to publishing cutting-edge research on the science of climate change, its impacts and wider implications for the economy, society and policy and is currently ranked as the top journal in environmental research.
Joanne Fryer | Eurek Alert!
Researchers find higher than expected carbon emissions from inland waterways
25.05.2016 | Washington State University
Rutgers scientists help create world's largest coral gene database
24.05.2016 | Rutgers University
A biological and energy-efficient process, developed and patented by the University of Innsbruck, converts nitrogen compounds in wastewater treatment facilities into harmless atmospheric nitrogen gas. This innovative technology is now being refined and marketed jointly with the United States’ DC Water and Sewer Authority (DC Water). The largest DEMON®-system in a wastewater treatment plant is currently being built in Washington, DC.
The DEMON®-system was developed and patented by the University of Innsbruck 11 years ago. Today this successful technology has been implemented in about 70...
Permanent magnets are very important for technologies of the future like electromobility and renewable energy, and rare earth elements (REE) are necessary for their manufacture. The Fraunhofer Institute for Mechanics of Materials IWM in Freiburg, Germany, has now succeeded in identifying promising approaches and materials for new permanent magnets through use of an in-house simulation process based on high-throughput screening (HTS). The team was able to improve magnetic properties this way and at the same time replaced REE with elements that are less expensive and readily available. The results were published in the online technical journal “Scientific Reports”.
The starting point for IWM researchers Wolfgang Körner, Georg Krugel, and Christian Elsässer was a neodymium-iron-nitrogen compound based on a type of...
In the Beyond EUV project, the Fraunhofer Institutes for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen and for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering IOF in Jena are developing key technologies for the manufacture of a new generation of microchips using EUV radiation at a wavelength of 6.7 nm. The resulting structures are barely thicker than single atoms, and they make it possible to produce extremely integrated circuits for such items as wearables or mind-controlled prosthetic limbs.
In 1965 Gordon Moore formulated the law that came to be named after him, which states that the complexity of integrated circuits doubles every one to two...
Characterization of high-quality material reveals important details relevant to next generation nanoelectronic devices
Quantum mechanics is the field of physics governing the behavior of things on atomic scales, where things work very differently from our everyday world.
When current comes in discrete packages: Viennese scientists unravel the quantum properties of the carbon material graphene
In 2010 the Nobel Prize in physics was awarded for the discovery of the exceptional material graphene, which consists of a single layer of carbon atoms...
24.05.2016 | Event News
20.05.2016 | Event News
19.05.2016 | Event News
27.05.2016 | Awards Funding
27.05.2016 | Life Sciences
27.05.2016 | Life Sciences