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HYDROLOGY IN A CHANGING CLIMATE: MOUNTAINS AS WATER TOWERS Mark Williams University of Colorado Geography and INSTAAR What Do We Really Know about the Water Cycle? Water flows towards money Whiskey’s for drinkin’, water’s for fighten’ WATER CYCLE HYDROLOGIC EQUATION Q = P – ET +- D S

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hydrology in a changing climate mountains as water towers

HYDROLOGY IN A CHANGING CLIMATE: MOUNTAINS AS WATER TOWERS

Mark Williams

University of Colorado

Geography and INSTAAR

what do we really know about the water cycle
What Do We Really Know about the Water Cycle?
  • Water flows towards money
  • Whiskey’s for drinkin’, water’s for fighten’
hydrologic equation
HYDROLOGIC EQUATION

Q = P – ET +- DS

Q is discharge

P is precipitation

ET is evapotranspiration

S is storage (usually groundwater)

water restrictions
WATER RESTRICTIONS
  • Apply only to municipal water users
  • They use <10% of all water
  • Why are municipal water users picked on?
  • Should municipal water users adhere to voluntary water restrictions?
  • Or by doing so do they provide aid and comfort to water abusers?
areas dependent on mountain discharge
AREAS DEPENDENT ON MOUNTAIN DISCHARGE

DANIEL VIVIROLI, ROLFWEINGARTNER and BRUNO MESSERLI

global view of mountain discharge
GLOBAL VIEW OF MOUNTAIN DISCHARGE

DANIEL VIVIROLI, ROLF WEINGARTNER and BRUNO MESSERLI

gravity is free the colorado big thompson diversion project
Transfers water 13 miles from Lake Granby, Shadow Mountain Lake and Grand Lake (in the Colorado River basin) to the Big Thompson River for use on the east slope of the Front Range, under Rocky Mtn NP via Adams tunnel

Most water users prefer “mountain stream water” because gravity delivers it for free.

Gravity is Free: The Colorado-Big Thompson diversion project
potable drinking water
Potable Drinking Water
  • Dependable, potable water as a renewable resource is one of the global environmental obstacles that has grown more acute as a result of population increase and changes in global climate patterns.
slide17

WATER QUALITY

New York City

Storage capacity of 550 billion gallons.

1.5 billion gallons per day delivered

to 9 million customers

97 percent reaches homes and

businesses through gravity alone

90% of water unfiltered.

Chlorine is added to the water to kill

bacteria, and fluoride is added to help

prevent tooth decay.

ALL WATER FROM MOUNTAINS!

benefits of mountain runoff
Benefits of Mountain Runoff
  • Mountain runoff provides 65-90% of usable water in arid and semi-arid regions
  • The high quality of mountain runoff is preferred for drinking water, beer making
  • Mountain runoff is “free” to downstream users because of gravity flow
  • Water available when needed: spring and summer months
precipitation amount increases with elevation
Precipitation Amount Increases with Elevation

Chemical loading also

increases with elevation

Great Plains

Loch Vale

Transect from plains to ROMO

less et with higher elevations
Less ET with Higher Elevations
  • Trees intercept snow
  • Less snow reaches ground
  • High ET loses in both winter and summer for forested areas
  • Less tress with higher elevations
  • Colder air temps with higher elevations
drip irrigation system
Drip Irrigation System
  • Melting snow is similar to a drip-irrigation system
  • Snow melts slowly and steadily
  • Snow melt generally stops at night
  • Maximum infiltration occurs
  • Little overland flow, flooding, or sediment transport
less subsurface storage
Less Subsurface Storage

A higher percent of snowmelt converted to streamflow

with increasing elevation, because less subsurface storage to fill

don t eat the snow
Don’t Eat the Snow!
  • Snowmelt runoff has the best water quality
  • Snow generally has much less solutes than any streamwater
  • Snow generally has little anthropogenic contamination
slide36

Alps case study

  • Precip doubles
  • ET: little change
  • Runoff: 4x greater

With mountains

No mountains

Adapted from Baumgartner et al., in press

slide38

Larger temp increases in mountains

Mean change in temperature for 2xCO2 runs from 7 climate models.

Black triangles are high mountains for that latitude. White line connects

the highest elevations in each grid cell. North American summer months.

Note that the climate models suggest increasing temperature change

with increasing elevation (Bradley et al., 2004, GRLs).

albedo of snow
Albedo of Snow
  • Highest values on earth
  • Why you get sunburn twice when skiing
  • Why you sunburn weird places (ears, inside nose)
  • Lack of snow decreases albedo
  • Increases warming
  • Positive feedback
  • Threshold effect
  • Very sensitive to climate changes
less snow earlier melt
Less Snow, Earlier Melt

CIG (www.cses.washington.edu/ cig/figures)

climate snow feedbacks
Climate-Snow Feedbacks
  • Amount of snow stored in mountain areas changes dramatically with just a small change in temperature
  • A small change in snow-covered area results in a large decrease in albedo
  • More snow melts
  • Albedo decreases
  • Positive cycle run amuck
  • Less total discharge (more ET loss)
  • Earlier discharge peak
  • Less summer discharge
western us 1950 2000
Western US 1950-2000

SNOWPACK

STREAMFLOW

(Mote and others)

(Stewart and others)

problems with hydroelectric power
Problems with Hydroelectric Power
  • In the past two decades, the amount of power that Idaho Power Co. has generated cheaply from its 17 hydroelectric dams on the Snake River has dropped.
  • A drop in July-to-September streamflows, as predicted in the climate models, would reduce power production by 10 to 15 percent, according to the Climate Impacts Group.
  • Since summer is a peak period for power, the wholesale rates could be high. Idaho Power is allowed to pass on its annual power costs to its 423,000 customers so electricity bills would rise.
glacial retreat south cascade
Glacial Retreat: South Cascade

Snow line and glacial extent moving uphill

global problem
Global Problem

Mark Dyurgerov, INSTAAR

slide48

Global warming threatens ski resorts

* 16:25 02 December 2003

* NewScientist.com news service

* Duncan Graham-Rowe

Hundreds of ski resorts will go out of business

because of global warming,

according to research published

by the United Nations Environment Program

on Tuesday.

slide49

Ski Areas in a Changing Climate

  • Great uncertainty of future patterns
  • Low elevation ski areas at risk
  • Risk of shortened seasons from early & late rains (winter & spring holidays=$$$$)
  • Number one ski day is Saturday after Thanksgiving
  • Too warm to make snow?
slide50

Climate Related Stresses on Ski Area Operations

Increased Snowmaking to maintain length of season

Increased pressure for year-round operations to offset reduced winter revenues

Increased value of shrinking alpine ecosystems might limit expansion

Warmer temperatures could make skiing mor enjoyable…

From the Proceedings of the Rocky Mountain / Great Basin Regional Climate-Change Workshop

trading snow boards for water skiis
Trading snow boards for water skiis
  • The warmer winter temperatures projected by the climate models mean ski resorts would open later and closer earlier.
  • Temperatures at Bogus Basin in Idaho (outside fast-growing Boise) have averaged 15 to 20 degrees above normal for the last three years, said Mike Shirley, Bogus Basin general manager.
a snoball s chance in
A Snoball’s Chance in …
  • John Harte, UC Berkeley prof at RMBL near Crested Butte "It's very difficult for me to believe that 40 years from now, or even 20 to 30 years, the ski industry is going to be any kind of healthy recreational industry“
  • Vail Mountain chief operating officer Bill Jensen replies, "Hogwash. I don't believe that at all. People will be skiing in Colorado 50 to 100 years from now. I'll let the jury decide about 200 years from now."
  • From Allen Best, Aspen Times, 30 September 2004
slide53

How is Snow Made?

  • Water withdrawn from river or lake
  • Pumped up to holding reservoir

http://www.ist-snow.com/Page1

problems with making snow
Problems with Making Snow
  • Take water from streams in fall months
  • These are low-flow times of year
  • Result is aquatic damage
    • Benthic invertebrates killed (fish food)
    • Not enough water, oxygen for fish
  • No water for downstream users
  • More pollution: concentrations of pollutants goes up because no water to dilute
slide55

Whiskey’s For Drinkin’, Water’s For Fightin’

  • Legal right to divert water
    • Senior rights
    • Vail has spent >$1,000,000 acquiring senior water rights
  • Legal rights for water left in rivers aren’t recognized in many states
  • Highest priority to people that hold oldest rights
  • In conflict with “ecosystem services” such as trout fisheries, kayaking, rafting
alps dark view of white snow
ALPS: Dark view of white snow
  • 85 percent of Swiss resorts today are "snow reliable."
  • Only 44 percent of skiing regions will be “snow reliable” in 2030
  • Germany and Austria, with more lower-elevation resorts, would have even fewer ski areas remaining in business.
  • Rolf B?rki, Hans Elsasser, and Bruno Abegg, quoted by A Best in Aspen Times, 30 September, 2004.
swiss wrap glacier to slow ice melt
Swiss wrap glacier to slow ice melt
  • (Reuters) -- Alarmed by the retreat of its Alpine glacier, a Swiss ski resort on Tuesday wrapped part of the shrinking ice-cap in a giant blanket in a bid to reduce the summer melt.
  • If successful, officials at the Gemsstock resort above Andermatt in central Switzerland expect the example to be followed elsewhere in the Alps, where scientists say glaciers are under threat from global warming.
  • 2005