Impact of climate and land cover changes on snow cover in a small Pyrenean catchment

Abstract : The seasonal snow in the Pyrenees Mountains is an essential source of runoff for hydropower production and crop irrigation in Spain and France. The Pyrenees are expected to undergo strong environmental perturbations over the 21st century because of climate change (rising temperatures) and the abandonment of agro-pastoral areas (reforestation). Both changes are happening at similar timescales and are expected to have an impact on snow cover. The effect of climate change on snow in the Pyrenees is well understood , but the effect of land cover changes is much less documented. Here, we analyze the response of snow cover to a combination of climate and land cover change scenarios in a small Pyrenean catchment (Bassiès, 14.5 km 2 , elevation range 940–2651 m a.s.l.) using a distributed snowpack evolution model. Climate scenarios were constructed from the output of regional climate model projections, whereas land cover scenarios were generated based on past observed changes and an inductive pattern-based model. The model was validated over a snow season using in situ snow depth measurements and high-resolution snow cover maps derived from SPOT (Satellite Pour l'Observation de la Terre – Earth Observation Satellite) satellite images. Model projections indicate that both climate and land cover changes reduce the mean snow depth. However, the impact on the snow cover duration is moderated in reforested areas by the shading effect of trees on the snow surface radiation balance. Most of the significant changes are expected to occur in the transition zone between 1500 m a.s.l. and 2000 m a.s.l. where (i) the projected increase in air temperatures decreases the snow fraction of the precipitation and (ii) the land cover changes are concentrated. However, the consequences on the runoff are limited because most of the meltwater originates from high-elevation areas of the catchment, which are less affected by climate change and reforestation.
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Journal of Hydrology, Elsevier, 2015, 521, pp.84-99. 〈10.1016/j.jhydrol.2014.11.060〉
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C Szczypta, Simon Gascoin, Thomas Houet, Olivier Hagolle, J.-F Dejoux, et al.. Impact of climate and land cover changes on snow cover in a small Pyrenean catchment. Journal of Hydrology, Elsevier, 2015, 521, pp.84-99. 〈10.1016/j.jhydrol.2014.11.060〉. 〈hal-01194488〉

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