Several trend studies have shown that hydrological conditions are changing considerably in the Alpine region. However, the reasons for these changes are only partially understood and trend analyses alone are not able to shed much light. Hydrological modelling is one possible way to
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Several trend studies have shown that hydrological conditions are changing considerably in the Alpine region. However, the reasons for these changes are only partially understood and trend analyses alone are not able to shed much light. Hydrological modelling is one possible way to identify the trend drivers, i.e.
, to attribute the detected streamflow trends, given that the model captures all important processes causing the trends. We modelled the hydrological conditions for two alpine catchments in western
Austria (a large, mostly lower-altitude catchment with wide valley plains and a nested high-altitude, glaciated headwater catchment) with the distributed, physically-oriented WaSiM-ETH model, which includes a dynamical glacier module. The model was calibrated in a transient mode, i.e.
, not only on several standard goodness measures and glacier extents, but also in such a way that the simulated streamflow trends fit with the observed ones during the investigation period 1980 to 2007. With this approach, it was possible to separate streamflow components, identify the trends of flow components, and study their relation to trends in atmospheric variables. In addition to trends in annual averages, highly resolved trends for each Julian day were derived, since they proved powerful in an earlier, data-based attribution study. We were able to show that annual and highly resolved trends can be modelled sufficiently well. The results provide a holistic, year-round picture of the drivers of alpine streamflow changes: Higher-altitude catchments are strongly affected by earlier firn melt and snowmelt in spring and increased ice melt throughout the ablation season. Changes in lower-altitude areas are mostly caused by earlier and lower snowmelt volumes. All highly resolved trends in streamflow and its components show an explicit similarity to the local temperature trends. Finally, results indicate that evapotranspiration has been increasing in the lower altitudes during the study period.