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We use a high-resolution nested climate model to investigate future changes in snowmelt-driven runoff (SDR) over the western US. Comparison of modeled and observed daily runoff data reveals that the regional model captures the present-day timing and trends of SDR. Results from an A2 scenario simulation indicate that increases in seasonal temperature of approximately 3° to 5°C resulting from increasing greenhouse gas concentrations could cause SDR to occur as much as two months earlier than present. These large changes result from an amplified snow-albedo feedback driven by the topographic complexity of the region, which is more accurately resolved in a high-resolution nested climate model. Earlier SDR could affect water storage in reservoirs and hydroelectric generation, with serious consequences for land use, agriculture, and water management in the American West.

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Copyright 2008 by the American Geophysical Union.

Recommended Citation

Rauscher, S. A., J. S. Pal, N. S. Diffenbaugh, and M. M. Benedetti (2008), Future changes in snowmelt-driven runoff timing over the western US, Geophys. Res. Lett., 35, L16703, doi:10.1029/2008GL034424.