Roundup: Meltwater Buffering, Glacier National Park, and River Variability

Glacier Melt Buffers River Runoff in Pamir Mountains

From Water Resources Research: “Newly developed approaches based on satellite altimetry and gravity measurements provide promising results on glacier dynamics in the Pamir-Himalaya but cannot resolve short-term natural variability at regional and finer scale. We contribute to the ongoing debate by upscaling a hydrological model that we calibrated for the central Pamir… We provide relevant information about individual components of the hydrological cycle and quantify short-term hydrological variability… We demonstrate that glaciers play a twofold role by providing roughly 35 percent of the annual runoff of the Panj River basin and by effectively buffering runoff both during very wet and very dry years. The modeled glacier mass balance (GMB) of −0.52 m w.e. yr−1 (2002–2013) for the entire catchment suggests significant reduction of most Pamiri glaciers by the end of this century. The loss of glaciers and their buffer functionality in wet and dry years could not only result in reduced water availability and increase the regional instability, but also increase flood and drought hazards.”

Learn more about glacial melt in the Pamir Mountains here.

Amu Darya river catchment and glacier coverage (Source: Pohl et al.).


Retreat of Glaciers in Glacier National Park

From USGS: “In Glacier National Park (GNP), MT some effects of climate change are strikingly clear. Glacier recession is underway, and many glaciers have already disappeared. The retreat of these small alpine glaciers reflects changes in recent climate as glaciers respond to altered temperature and precipitation. It has been estimated that there were approximately 150 glaciers present in 1850, around the end of the Little Ice Age. Most glaciers were still present in 1910 when the park was established. In 2015, measurements of glacier area indicate that there were 26 remaining glaciers larger than 25 acres. There is evidence of worldwide glacial glacier recession and varied model projections suggest that certain studied GNP glaciers will disappear between 2030 to 2080.”

Learn more about glacial retreat in Glacier National Park here.

The retreat of Jackson Glacier in Glacier National Park (Source: USGS).


Runoff in British Columbia’s Coast and Insular Mountains

From Hydrological Processes: “This study examines the 1914–2015 runoff trends and variability for 136 rivers draining British Columbia’s Coast and Insular Mountains. Rivers are partitioned into eastward and westward flowing rivers based on flow direction from the Coast Mountains. Thus, eastward and westward runoff trends and influence of topography on runoff are explored. Our findings indicate that rivers flowing eastward to the Nechako and Chilcotin plateaus contribute the lowest annual runoff compared to westward rivers where runoff is high. Low interannual runoff variability is evident in westward rivers and their alpine watersheds, whereas eastward rivers exhibit high interannual runoff variability.”

Read more about variability in river runoff in British Columbia here.

Map of British Columbia’s Coast and Insular Mountains with the locations of the hydrometric gauges used in the study (Source: Hernández-Henríquez et al.).


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