Abstract

Glaciers and snowpacks influence streamflow by altering the volume and timing of discharge. Without reliable data on baseline snow and ice volumes, properties and behaviour, initializing hydrological models for climate impact assessment is challenging. Two contrasting HySIM model builds were calibrated and validated against observed discharge data (2000–2008) assuming that snowmelt of the baseline permanent snowpack reserves in the high-elevation sub-catchment are either constrained (snowmelt is limited to the seasonal snow accumulation) or unconstrained (snowmelt is only energy-limited). We then applied both models within a scenario-neutral framework to develop impact response surface of hydrological response to future changes in annual temperature and precipitation. Both models had similar baseline model performance (NSE of 0.69–0.70 in calibration and 0.64–0.66 in validation), but the impact response surfaces differ in the magnitude and (for some combinations) direction of model response to climate change at low (Q10) and high (Q90) daily flows. The implications of historical data inadequacies in snowpack characterization for assessing the impacts of climate change and the associated timing of hydrological tipping points are discussed.

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