16 Sep 2022
16 Sep 2022
Status: this preprint is open for discussion.

Hydrologic implications of projected changes in rain-on-snow melt for Great Lakes Basin watersheds

Daniel T. Myers, Darren L. Ficklin, and Scott M. Robeson Daniel T. Myers et al.
  • Department of Geography, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana 47405, USA

Abstract. Rain-on-snow (ROS) melt events reduce the amount of water stored in the snowpack while also exacerbating flooding. The hydrologic implications of changing ROS events in a warming climate, however, are still uncertain. This research used a calibrated and validated Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) hydrologic model, modified with energy budget equations to simulate ROS melt and forced with a climate model ensemble representing moderate greenhouse-gas concentrations, to simulate changes to ROS melt in the North American Great Lakes Basin from 1960–2099. The changes to ROS events between the historic period (1960–1999) and mid-century (2040–2069) represent an approximately 30 % reduction in melt in warmer, southern subbasins, but less than 5 % reduction in melt in colder, northern subbasins. Additionally, proportionally more rainfall reduces the formation of snowpacks, with area-weighted winter+spring rain-to-snow ratios rising from approximately 1.5 historically to 2.0 by the end of the 21st century. Areas with historic mean winter+spring air temperatures lower than -2 °C have ROS regimes that are resilient to 21st century warming projections, but ROS occurrence in areas that have mean winter+spring temperatures near the freezing point are sensitive to changing air temperatures. Also, relationships between changes in the timing of ROS melt and water yield endure throughout the spring but become weak by summer. As the influence of ROS melt events on hydrological systems is being altered in a changing climate, these conclusions are important to inform adaptive management of freshwater ecosystems and human uses in regions of the globe that are sensitive to changes in ROS events.

Daniel T. Myers et al.

Status: open (until 11 Nov 2022)

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Daniel T. Myers et al.

Data sets

Myers et al. Great Lakes Basin model and data Daniel Myers, Darren Ficklin, Scott Robeson

Daniel T. Myers et al.


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Short summary
We projected climate change impacts to rain-on-snow melt events in the Great Lakes Basin. Decreases in snowpack limit future rain-on-snow melt. Areas with mean winter/spring air temperatures near freezing are most sensitive to rain-on-snow changes. The projected proportion of total monthly snowmelt from rain-on-snow decreases. Timing for rain-on-snow melt projected to be 2 weeks earlier by mid-21st century and affects spring streamflow. This could affect management of freshwater resources.