Impacts of climate change in three hydrologic regimes in British Columbia, Canada

Hydrologic modelling has been applied to assess the impacts of projected climate change within three study areas in the Peace, Campbell and Columbia River watersheds of British Columbia, Canada. These study areas include interior nival (two sites) and coastal hybrid nival–pluvial (one site) hydro-climatic regimes. Projections were based on a suite of eight global climate models driven by three emission scenarios to project potential climate responses for the 2050s period (2041–2070). Climate projections were statistically downscaled and used to drive a macro-scale hydrology model at high spatial resolution. This methodology covers a large range of potential future climates for British Columbia and explicitly addresses both emissions and global climate model uncertainty in the final hydrologic projections. Snow water equivalent is projected to decline throughout the Peace and Campbell and at low elevations within the Columbia. At high elevations within the Columbia, snow water equivalent is projected to increase with increased winter precipitation. Streamflow projections indicate timing shifts in all three watersheds, predominantly because of changes in the dynamics of snow accumulation and melt. The coastal hybrid site shows the largest sensitivity, shifting to more rainfall-dominated system by mid-century. The two interior sites are projected to retain the characteristics of a nival regime by mid-century, although streamflow-timing shifts result from increased mid-winter rainfall and snowmelt, and earlier freshet onset.
Schnorbus, M., A. Werner, and K.E. Bennett
Hydrological Systems