Climate Change and its Influence on Mountain Snow Covers: Implication for Drinking Water in the European Alps

By Davy Vanham and Wolfgang Rauch.

Published by The International Journal of Climate Change: Impacts and Responses

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

With more than one-sixth of the Earth’s population relying on melt water from seasonal snow packs and glaciers for their water supply, the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report 2007 predicts that climate change will affect future water availability in these regions considerably. As temperatures rise, the likelihood of precipitation falling as rain rather than snow increases. Apart from large areas within northern latitudes of the globe, river basins that are fed by mountain ranges like the European Alps, the Himalayas and the Andes are influenced strongly. In this paper the influence of increasing temperatures on the snow packs and hydrology of a river basin in the Austrian Alps in Europe is analysed, as well as the resulting implications for the water supply within the catchment. A physically distributed hydrological model is used to examine a 2ºC and 4ºC temperature rise (predicted for the middle respectively the end of the 21st century). The resulting change in flow seasonality and seasonal hydrology has a large impact on the seasonal water balance between available water and water demands.

Keywords: Climate Change, Snowpack, Water Availability, Drinking Water, Mountain, Alps

The International Journal of Climate Change: Impacts and Responses, Volume 1, Issue 4, pp.101-112. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 2.961MB).

Davy Vanham

PhD Student, Working Unit Environmental Engineering, Institute of Infrastructure, University of Innsbruck, Innsbruck, Austria

Mr. Davy Vanham is a PhD Student at the University of Innsbruck in Austria, his dissertation is entitled “Integrated water resources management in alpine regions: development and application of methodologies for the analysis of present and future conditions”. He already published several papers on this topic, and presented results at national and international conferences. After obtaining a MSc. in Environmental Sciences at the University of Leuven in Belgium, he obtained an additional MSc in Water Resources Engineering from the University of Brussels. Practical experience was gained during a 4 years position as project engineer for a consulting company within the domain of integrated water resources management, including in international projects like in Ecuador. He also worked on a research project at the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa. Currently he is finalising his PhD, and the next large project will be the composition of a water atlas for South and mainland South-East Asia.

Prof. Wolfgang Rauch

Professor, Working Unit Environmental Engineering, Institute of Infrastructure, University of Innsbruck, Innsbruck, Austria

Professor Wolfgang Rauch is head of the Institute of Infrastructure of the University of Innsbruck in Austria. His research encompasses modelling and analysis of the complete urban water infrastructure system by focussing especially on water pollution, drainage and the integrative aspects of urban water management. He has published more than 80 papers in peer reviewed journals, conference and book contributions. He is well known in the international community due to his activity in international organisations. Among others he served as a member of the IWA task group on river water quality modelling and in European research programs. Since 1996 he is member of the Joint Committee of IAHR and IWA on Urban Drainage, and chairs the committee since 2002. Moreover he serves as editor of one of the most important journals in the field that is Water Research.

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