Modelling the potential impacts of climate change on snowpack in the St. Mary River watershed, Montana

Thumbnail Image
MacDonald, Ryan J.
University of Lethbridge. Faculty of Arts and Science
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Lethbridge, Alta. : University of Lethbridge, Dept. of Geography, c2008
Climate change poses significant threats to mountain ecosystems in North America (Barnett et al., 2005) and will subsequently impact water supply for human and ecosystem use. To assess these threats, we must have an understanding of the local variability in hydrometeorological conditions over the mountains. This thesis describes the continued development and application of a fine scale spatial hydrometeorological model, GENESYS (GENerate Earth SYstems Science input). The GENESYS model successfully simulated daily snowpack values for a 10 year trial period and annual runoff volumes for a thirty year period. Based on the results of these simulations the model was applied to estimate potential changes in snowpack over the St. Mary River watershed, Montana. GCM derived future climate scenarios were applied, representing a range of emissions controls and applied to perturb the 1961-90 climate record using the “delta” downscaling technique. The effects of these changes in climate were assessed for thirty year time slices centered on 2020s, 2050s, and 2080s. The GENESYS simulations of future climate showed that mountain snowpack was highly vulnerable to changes in temperature and to a lesser degree precipitation. A seasonal shift to an earlier onset of spring melt and an increase in the ratio of rain to snow occurred under all climate change scenarios. Results of mean and maximum snowpack were more variable and appeared to be highly dependent on scenario selection. The results demonstrated that although annual volume of available water from snowpack may increase, the seasonal distribution of available water may be significantly altered.
viii, 93 leaves ; 29 cm
Snowpack augmentation -- Montana -- St. Mary River Basin , Climatic changes , Global warming , Snow -- Montana -- St. Mary River Basin , Runoff -- Montana -- St. Mary River Basin , St. Mary River Basin (Montana) , Rocky Mountains -- Montana -- Climate , Dissertations, Academic