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Water 2019, 11(1), 89; https://doi.org/10.3390/w11010089

Relevance and Scale Dependence of Hydrological Changes in Glacierized Catchments: Insights from Historical Data Series in the Eastern Italian Alps

1
Department of Geosciences, University of Padova, Via Gradenigo, 6, 35131 Padova, Italy
2
Department of Land, Environment, Agriculture and Forestry, University of Padova, Viale dell’Università, 16, 35020 Legnaro (Padova), Italy
3
Department of Agricultural, Food, Environmental and Animal Sciences, University of Udine, Via delle Scienze, 206, 33100 Udine, Italy
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 18 November 2018 / Revised: 27 December 2018 / Accepted: 28 December 2018 / Published: 8 January 2019
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Abstract

Glaciers have an important hydrological buffering effect, but their current rapid reduction raises concerns about future water availability and management. This work presents a hydrological sensitivity analysis to different climatic and glacier cover conditions, carried out over four catchments with area between 8 and 1050 km2, and with glacierization between 2% and 70%, in the Italian Alps. The analysis is based on past observations, and exploits a unique dataset of glacier change and hydro-meteorological data. The working approach is aimed at avoiding uncertainties typical of future runoff projections in glacierized catchments. The results highlight a transition from glacial to nival hydrological regime, with the highest impacts in August runoff over smaller catchments. The buffering effect of current glaciers has largely decreased if compared to the Little Ice Age, up to 75% for larger catchments, but it is still important during warm and dry summers like 2003. We confirm a non-linear relationship between glacier contribution in late summer and catchment area/percent glacierization. The peak in runoff attributable to glacier melt, expected in the next 2–3 decades on highly glacierized alpine catchments, has already passed in the study area. View Full-Text
Keywords: glacier runoff change; climate change; alpine watersheds; Italian Alps; glacio-hydrological modeling; historical data series glacier runoff change; climate change; alpine watersheds; Italian Alps; glacio-hydrological modeling; historical data series
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).
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Carturan, L.; De Blasi, F.; Cazorzi, F.; Zoccatelli, D.; Bonato, P.; Borga, M.; Dalla Fontana, G. Relevance and Scale Dependence of Hydrological Changes in Glacierized Catchments: Insights from Historical Data Series in the Eastern Italian Alps. Water 2019, 11, 89.

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