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    Implementing a parsimonious variable contributing area algorithm for the prairie pothole region in the HYPE modelling framework
    (Environmental Modelling and Software, 2023-09) Ahmed, Mohamed Ismaiel; Shook, Kevin; Pietroniro, Alain; Stadnyk, Tricia; Pomeroy, John W.; Pers, Charlotta; Gustafsson, David
    The North American prairie region is known for its poorly defined drainage system with numerous surface depressions that lead to variable contributing areas for streamflow generation. Current approaches of representing surface depressions are either simplistic or computationally demanding. In this study, a variable contributing area algorithm is implemented in the HYdrological Predictions for the Environment (HYPE) model and evaluated in the Canadian prairies. HYPE's local lake module is replaced with a Hysteretic Depressional Storage (HDS) algorithm to estimate the variable contributing fractions of subbasins. The modified model shows significant improvements in simulating the streamflows of two prairie basins in Saskatchewan, Canada. The modified model can replicate the hysteretic relationships between the water volume and contributing area of the basins. With the inclusion of the HDS algorithm in HYPE, the global HYPE modelling community can now simulate an important hydrological phenomenon, previously unavailable in the model.
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    Crop water use efficiency from eddy covariance methods in cold
    (Agricultural and Forest Meteorology, 2023-08) Harder, Phillip; Helgason, Warren; Johnson, Bruce; Pomeroy, John
    Crop–water interactions define productivity in water-limited dryland agricultural production systems in cold regions. Despite the agronomic and economic importance of this relationship there are challenges in quantifying crop water use efficiency (WUE). To understand dynamics driving crop water use and agricultural productivity in these environments, observations of evapotranspiration, carbon assimilation, meteorology, and crop growth were collected over 17 site-years at 5 agricultural sites in the sub-humid continental Canadian Prairies. Eddy-covariance (EC) derived water and carbon fluxes provided a means to comprehensively assess the WUE of current agricultural practices by both physiological (WUEP: g C kg−1 H2O) and agronomic (WUEY): kg yield mm H2O−1 hectare−1) approaches. Mean field scale WUEY for grain yields were 10.4 (Barley), 10.2 (Wheat), 6.0 (Canola), 19.3 (Peas), 12.2 (Lentils) and for silage/forage crops were 23.0 (Barley), 11.9 (Forage), and 20.7 (Corn) (kg yield mm H2O−1 hectare−1). An assessment of environmental factors and their covariance with WUE, utilising a conditional inference tree approach, demonstrated that WUE decreased when crops were under greater evapotranspiration demands. EC-based areal WUE approaches, measuring fluxes over footprints of hundreds of square metres, were compared with more commonly reported point-scale water balance residual approaches (WUEWB) and demonstrated consistently smaller magnitudes. WUEWB was greater than EC-estimated WUEY by an average of 52% and 65% for grain and forage/silage crops respectively. WUEWB also had greater variability than EC estimates, with standard deviations 188% and 128% greater than Barley and Wheat crops, respectively. This comparison highlights the scale dependency of WUE estimation methods, demonstrates considerable uncertainty in point scale water balance approaches due to spatial variability in crop–water interactions, and shows how this variability can be accounted for by EC observations. This improves the understanding of WUE and quantifies its variability in cold continental water-limited climates and provides a means to diagnose improved agricultural water management.
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    The influence of roads on depressional storage capacity estimates from high-resolution LiDAR DEMs in a Canadian Prairie agricultural basin
    (Canadian Water Resources Journal, 2023-07) Annand, Holly; wheater, howard; Pomeroy, John W.
    The Canadian Prairies are a post-glacial agricultural landscape, where millions of small depressions store surface water, form wetlands and control runoff contributing area. Their management is key to flood and drought hydrology, groundwater recharge, ecological integrity, migratory bird habitat and agricultural productivity. Depression drainage and infilling is common in the region, where it is often used to increase cropped area. The regularly spaced, rural ‘grid-road‘ network also impedes drainage, but associated culvert drainage can mitigate those effects. Management of depressions can be informed by hydrological modelling, but accurate surface water storage capacity estimates are needed to ensure accurate model results. Simple representation of road embankments in digital elevation models (DEMs) neglects the effects of culvert drainage. Here, a raster-based depression-filling algorithm was used to delineate depressions from three LiDAR-derived DEMs: a 10-m DEM with roads intact, a 2-m DEM with roads intact, and a 2-m DEM with roads breached at culvert locations. Road breaching was conducted manually in the 2-m DEM to remove artifact depressions that form alongside roads where culverts exist. Results indicated that increasing DEM resolution from 10-m to 2-m in a 393.5 km2 basin did not significantly change depression area or storage capacity estimates; however, breaching roads in the 2-m DEM decreased depression area by 29% (from 98.5 km2 to 69.8 km2) and estimated storage capacity by 48% (from 47.4 × 106 m3 to 23.8 × 106 m3), compared to leaving roads intact in the 2-m DEM. Depressions delineated from the 2-m roads-breached DEM also covered 48% more area and offered 53% more storage capacity than Canadian Wetland Inventory (CWI) aerial-photograph delineated wetlands, which occupied 47.1 km2 with an estimated storage capacity of 15.5 × 106 m3. The implications of these results for the ability of hydrological models to calculate runoff contributing areas and streamflow are discussed.
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    High-Resolution Large-Eddy Simulations of Flow in the Complex Terrain of the Canadian Rockies
    (Earth and Space Science, 10/25/2023) Rohanizadegan, Mina; Petrone, Richard; Pomeroy, John W.; Kosovic, Branko; Muñoz-Esparza, Domingo; Helgason, Warren
    Improving the calculation of land-atmosphere fluxes of heat and water vapor in mountain terrain requires better resolution of thermally driven diurnal winds (i.e., valley, slope winds) due to differential heating by terrain and radiative fluxes. In this study, the Weather Research and Forecasting model is used to simulate flow in large-eddy simulation (LES) mode over the complex terrain of the Fortress Mountain and Marmot Creek research basins, Kananaskis Valley, Canadian Rockies, Alberta in mid-summer. The model was used to examine the temporal and spatial evolution of local winds and near-surface boundary layer processes with variability in topography and elevation. Numerically resolving complex terrain wind flow effects require smaller grid cell size. However, the use of terrain-following coordinates in most numerical weather prediction models results in large numerical errors when flow over steep terrain is simulated. These errors propagate through the domain and can result in numerical instability. To avoid this issue when simulating flow over steep terrain a local smoothing approach was used, where smoothing is applied only where slope exceeds some predetermined threshold. LES results from local smoothing were compared with a mesoscale model and LES with global smoothing. Simulations are evaluated using sounding data and meteorological stations. The differences in flow patterns and reversals in two mountain basins suggest that valley geometry and volume is relevant to the break up of inversion layers, removal of cold-air pools, and strength of thermally driven winds.
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    Modelling the regional sensitivity of snowmelt, soil moisture, and streamflow generation to climate over the Canadian Prairies using a basin classification approach
    (Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, 10/9/2023) He, Zhihua; Shook, Kevin; Spence, Christopher; Pomeroy, John W.; Whitfield, Colin
    This study evaluated the effects of climate perturbations on snowmelt, soil moisture, and streamflow generation in small Canadian Prairies basins using a modelling approach based on classification of basin biophysical characteristics. Seven basin classes that encompass the entirety of the Prairies Ecozone in Canada were determined by cluster analysis of these characteristics. Individual semi-distributed virtual basin (VB) models representing these classes were parameterized in the Cold Regions Hydrological Model (CRHM) platform, which includes modules for snowmelt and sublimation, soil freezing and thawing, actual evapotranspiration (ET), soil moisture dynamics, groundwater recharge, and depressional storage dynamics including fill and spill runoff generation and variable connected areas. Precipitation (P) and temperature (T) perturbation scenarios covering the range of climate model predictions for the 21st century were used to evaluate climate sensitivity of hydrological processes in individual land cover and basin types across the Prairies Ecozone. Results indicated that snow accumulation in wetlands had a greater sensitivity to P and T than that in croplands and grasslands in all basin types. Wetland soil moisture was also more sensitive to T than the cropland and grassland soil moisture. Jointly influenced by land cover distribution and local climate, basin-average snow accumulation was more sensitive to T in the drier and grassland-characterized basins than in the wetter basins dominated by cropland, whilst basin-average soil moisture was most sensitive to T and P perturbations in basins typified by pothole depressions and broad river valleys. Annual streamflow had the greatest sensitivities to T and P in the dry and poorly connected Interior Grasslands (See Fig. 1) basins but the smallest in the wet and well-connected Southern Manitoba basins. The ability of P to compensate for warming-induced reductions in snow accumulation and streamflow was much higher in the wetter and cropland-dominated basins than in the drier and grassland-characterized basins, whilst decreases in cropland soil moisture induced by the maximum expected warming of 6 ∘C could be fully offset by a P increase of 11 % in all basins. These results can be used to (1) identify locations which had the largest hydrological sensitivities to changing climate and (2) diagnose underlying processes responsible for hydrological responses to expected climate change. Variations of hydrological sensitivity in land cover and basin types suggest that different water management and adaptation methods are needed to address enhanced water stress due to expected climate change in different regions of the Prairies Ecozone
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    Validation of FABDEM, a global bare-earth elevation model, against UAV-lidar derived elevation in a complex forested mountain catchment
    (IOP Publishing Ltd, 2023) Marsh, Christopher; Harder, Phillip; Pomeroy, John
    Space-based, global-extent digital elevation models (DEMs) are key inputs to many Earth sciences applications. However, many of these applications require the use of a 'bare-Earth' DEM versus a digital surface model (DSM), the latter of which may include systematic positive biases due to tree canopies in forested areas. Critical topographic features may be obscured by these biases. Vegetation-free datasets have been created by using statistical relationships and machine learning to train on local-scale datasets (e.g., lidar) to de-bias the global-extent datasets. Recent advances in satellite platforms coupled with increased availability of computational resources and lidar reference products has allowed for a new generation of vegetation- and urban-canopy removals. One of these is the Forest And Buildings removed Copernicus DEM(FABDEM), based on the most recent and most accurate global DSM Copernicus-30. Among the more challenging landscapes to quantify surface elevations are densely forested mountain catchments, where even airborne lidar applications struggle to capture surface returns. The increasing affordability and availability of UAV-based lidar platforms have resulted in new capacity to fly modest spatial extents with unrivalled point densities. These data allow an unprecedented ability to validate global sub-canopy DEMs against representative UAV-based lidar data. In this work, the FABDEM is validated against up-scaled lidar data in a steep and forested mountain catchment considering elevation, slope, and Terrain Position Index (TPI) metrics. Comparisons of FABDEM with SRTM, MERIT, and the Copernicus-30 dataset are made. It was found that the FABDEM had a 24% reduction in elevation RMSE and a 135% reduction in bias compared to the Copernicus-30 dataset. Overall, the FABDEM provides a clear improvement over existing deforested DEM products in complex mountain topography such as the MERIT DEM. This study supports the use of FABDEM in forested mountain catchments as the current best-in-class data product.
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    Windmapper: An Efficient Wind Downscaling Method for Hydrological Models
    (Wiley Online Library, 2023) Marsh, Christopher; Vionnet, Vincent; Pomeroy, John
    Estimates of near-surface wind speed and direction are key meteorological components for predicting many surface hydrometeorological processes that influence critical aspects of hydrological and biological systems. However, observations of near-surface wind are typically spatially sparse. The use of these sparse wind fields to force distributed models, such as hydrological models, is greatly complicated in complex terrain, such as mountain headwaters basins. In these regions, wind flows are heavily impacted by overlapping influences of terrain at different scales. This can have a great impact on calculations of evapotranspiration, snowmelt, and blowing snow transport and sublimation. The use of high-resolution atmospheric models allows for numerical weather prediction (NWP) model outputs to be dynamically downscaled. However, the computation burden for large spatial extents and long periods of time often precludes their use. Here, a wind-library approach is presented to aid in downscaling NWP outputs and terrain-correcting spatially interpolated observations. This approach preserves important spatial characteristics of the flow field at a fraction of the computational costs of even the simplest high-resolution atmospheric models. This approach improves on previous implementations by: scaling to large spatial extents O(1M km2); approximating lee-side effects; and fully automating the creation of the wind library. Overall, this approach was shown to have a third quartile RMSE 𝐴𝐴of 1.8 m ⋅ s−1 and a third quartile RMSE of 58.2° versus a standalone diagnostic windflow model. The wind velocity estimates versus observations were better than existing empirical terrain-based estimates and computational savings were approximately 100-fold versus the diagnostic model.
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    Towards a coherent flood forecasting framework for Canada: Local to global implications
    (Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management and John Wiley & Sons Ltd., 2023) Arnal, Louise; Pietroniro, Alain; Pomeroy, John; Fortin, Vincent; Casson, David; Stadnyk, Tricia; Rokaya, Prabin; Durnford, Dorothy; Friesenhan, Evan; Clark, Martyn P.
    Operational flood forecasting in Canada is a provincial responsibility that is carried out by several entities across the country. However, the increasing costs and impacts of floods require better and nationally coordinated flood prediction systems. A more coherent flood forecasting framework for Canada can enable implementing advanced prediction capabilities across the different entities with responsibility for flood forecasting. Recently, the Canadian meteorological and hydrological services were tasked to develop a national flow guidance system. Alongside this initiative, the Global Water Futures program has been advancing cold regions process understanding, hydrological modeling, and forecasting. A community of practice was established for industry, academia, and decision-makers to share viewpoints on hydrological challenges. Taken together, these initiatives are paving the way towards a national flood forecasting framework. In this article, forecasting challenges are identified (with a focus on cold regions), and recommendations are made to promote the creation of this framework. These include the need for cooperation, well-defined governance, and better knowledge mobilization. Opportunities and challenges posed by the increasing data availability globally are also highlighted. Advances in each of these areas are positioning Canada as a major contributor to the international operational flood forecasting landscape. This article highlights a route towards the deployment of capacities across large geographical domains.
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    Physically based cold regions river flood prediction in data-sparse regions: The Yukon River Basin flow forecasting system
    (Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management and John Wiley & Sons Ltd., 2022) Elshamy, Mohamed; Loukili, Youssef; Pomeroy, John; Pietroniro, Alain; Richard, Dominique; Princz, Daniel
    The Yukon River Basin (YRB) is one of the most important river networks shared between Canada and The United States, and is one of the largest river basins in the subarctic region of North America. The Canadian part of the YRB is characterized by steeply sloped, partly glaciated mountain headwaters that generate considerable runoff during melt of glaciers and seasonal snow-cover. Snow redistribution, snowmelt, glacier melt and freezing–thawing soil processes in winter and spring along with summertime rainfall-runoff and evapotranspiration processes are thus key components of streamflow generation in the basin, making conceptual rainfall-runoff models unsuitable for this cold region. Due to the remote high latitudes and high altitudes of the basin, there is a paucity of observational data, making heavily calibrated conceptual modeling approaches infeasible. At the request of the Yukon Government, this project developed and operationalized a streamflow forecasting system for the Yukon River and several of its tributary rivers using a distributed land surface modeling approach developed for large-scale implementation in cold regions. This represents a substantial advance in bringing operational hydrological forecasting to the Canadian subarctic for the first time. This experience will inform future research to operation improvements as Canada develops a nationally coordinated flood forecast system.
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    Recent hydrological response of glaciers in the Canadian Rockies to changing climate and glacier configuration
    (Copernicus Publications on behalf of the European Geosciences Union, 2022) Pradhananga, Dhiraj; Pomeroy, John
    Mountain snow and ice greatly influence the hydrological cycle of alpine regions by regulating both the quantity of and seasonal variations in water availability downstream. This study considers the combined impacts of climate and glacier changes due to recession on the hydrology and water balance of two high-elevation basins in the Canadian Rockies. A distributed, physically based, uncalibrated glacier hydrology model developed in the Cold Regions Hydrological Modelling platform (CRHM) was used to simulate the glacier mass balance and basin hydrology of the Peyto and Athabasca glacier basins in Alberta, Canada. Bias-corrected reanalysis data were used to drive the model. The model calculates the water balance of glacierized basins, influenced by the surface energy and mass balance, and considers the redistribution of snow by wind and avalanches. It was set up using hydrological response units based on elevation bands, surface slope, and aspect, as well as changing land cover. Aerial photos, satellite images and digital elevation models (DEMs) were assimilated to represent the changing configurations of glacier area and the exposure of ice and firn. Observations of glacier mass balance, snow, and glacier ice surface elevation changes at glacier and alpine tundra meteorological stations and streamflow discharge at the glacier outlets were used to evaluate the model performance. Basin hydrology was simulated over two periods, 1965–1975 and2008–2018, using the observed glacier configurations for those time periods. Both basins have undergone continuous glacier loss over the last 3 to 5 decades, leading to a 6 %–31% reduction in glacierized area, a 78 %–109% increase in ice exposure, and changes to the elevation and slope of the glacier surfaces. Air temperatures are increasing, mainly due to increasing winter maximum and summer minimum daily temperatures. Annual precipitation has increased by less than 11 %, but rainfall ratios have increased by 29 %–44 %. The results show that changes in both climate and glacier configuration have influenced the melt rates and runoff and a shift of peak flows in the Peyto Glacier basin from August to July. Glacier melt contributions increased/decreased from 27 %–61% to 43 %–59% of the annual discharges. Recent discharges were 3 %–19% higher than in the 1960s and 1970s.The results suggest that increased exposure of glacier ice and lower surface elevation due to glacier thinning were less influential than climate warming in increasing streamflow. Streamflow from these glaciers continues to increase.
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    The cold regions hydrological modelling platform for hydrological diagnosis and prediction based on process understanding
    (Elsevier B.V., 2022) Pomeroy, John; Brown, Tom; Fang, Xing; Shook, Kevin R.; Pradhananga, Dhiraj; Armstrong, Robert; Harder, Phillip; Marsh, Christopher; Costa, Diogo; Krogh, Sebastian; Aubry-Wake, Caroline; Annand, Holly; Lawford, Peter; He, Zhihua; Kompanizare, Mazda; Lopez-Moreno, Ignacio
    Cold regions involve hydrological processes that are not often addressed appropriately in hydrological models. The Cold Regions Hydrological Modelling platform (CRHM) was initially developed in 1998 to assemble and explore the hydrological understanding developed from a series of research basins spanning Canada and international cold regions. Hydrological processes and basin response in cold regions are simulated in a flexible, modular, object-oriented, multiphysics platform. The CRHM platform allows for multiple representations of forcing data interpolation and extrapolation, hydrological model spatial and physical process structures, and parameter values. It is well suited for model falsification, algorithm intercomparison and benchmarking, and has been deployed for basin hydrology diagnosis, prediction, land use change and water quality analysis, climate impact analysis and flood forecasting around the world. This paper describes CRHM’s capabilities, and the insights derived by applying the model in concert with process hydrology research and using the combined information and understanding from research basins to predict hydrological variables, diagnose hydrological change and determine the appropriateness of model structure and parameterisations.
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    Assessing runoff sensitivity of North American Prairie Pothole Region basins to wetland drainage using a basin classification-based virtual modelling approach
    (Copernicus Publications on behalf of the European Geosciences Union, 2022) Spence, Christopher; He, Zhihua; Shook, Kevin R.; Pomeroy, John; Whitfield, Colin; Wolfe, Jared
    Wetland drainage has been pervasive in the North American Prairie Pothole Region. There is strong evidence that this drainage increases the hydrological connectivity of previously isolated wetlands and, in turn, runoff response to snowmelt and rainfall. It can be hard to disentangle the role of climate from the influence of wetland drainage in observed records. In this study, a basin-classification-based virtual modelling approach is described that can isolate these effects on runoff regimes. The basin class which was examined, entitled Pothole Till, extends throughout much of Canada’s portion of the Prairie Pothole Region. Three knowledge gaps were addressed. First, it was determined that the spatial pattern in which wetlands are drained has little influence on how much the runoff regime was altered. Second, no threshold could be identified below which wetland drainage has no effect on the runoff regime, with drainage thresholds as low as 10 % in the area being evaluated. Third, wetter regions were less sensitive to drainage as they tend to be better hydrologically connected, even in the absence of drainage. Low flows were the least affected by drainage. Conversely, during extremely wet years, runoff depths could double as the result of complete wetland removal. Simulated median annual runoff depths were the most responsive, potentially tripling under typical conditions with high degrees of wet- land drainage. As storage capacity is removed from the landscape through wetland drainage, the size of the storage deficit of median years begins to decrease and to converge on those of the extreme wet years. Model simulations of flood frequency suggest that, because of these changes in antecedent conditions, precipitation that once could generate a median event with wetland drainage can generate what would have been a maximum event without wetland drainage. The advantage of the basin-classification-based virtual modelling approach employed here is that it simulated a long period that included a wide variety of precipitation and antecedent storage conditions across a diversity of wetland complexes. This has allowed seemingly disparate results of past research to be put into context and finds that conflicting results are often only because of differences in spatial scale and temporal scope of investigation. A conceptual framework is provided that shows, in general, how annual runoff in different climatic and drainage situations will likely respond to wetland drainage in the Prairie Pothole Region.
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    Quantifying relative contributions of source waters from a subalpine wetland to downstream water bodies
    (Wiley Online Library, 2022) Hathaway, Julia M.; Westbrook, Cherie; Rooney, Rebecca; Petrone, Richard; Langs, Lindsey E.
    Subalpine regions of the Canadian Rocky Mountains are expected to experience continued changes in hydrometeorological processes due to anthropogenically mediated climate warming. As a result, fresh water supplies are at risk as snowmelt periods occur earlier in the year, and glaciers contribute less annual meltwater, resulting in longer growing seasons and greater reliance on rainfall to generate runoff. In such environments, wetlands are potentially important components that control runoff processes, but due to their location and harsh climates their hydrology is not well studied. We used stable water isotopes of hydrogen and oxygen (δ2H and δ18O), coupled with MixSIAR, a Bayesian mixing model, to understand relative source water contributions and mixing within Burstall Wetland, a subalpine wetland (1900 m a.s.l.), and the larger Burstall Valley. These results were combined with climate data from the Burstall Valley to understand hydrometeorological controls on Burstall Wetland source water dynamics over spatiotemporal timescales. Our results show that the seasonal isotopic patterns within Burstall Wetland reflect greater reliance on snowmelt in spring and rainfall in the peak and post-growing season periods. We found a substantial degree of mixing between precipitation (rain and snow) and stored waters in the landscape, especially during the pre-growing season. These findings suggest that longer growing seasons in subalpine snow-dominated landscapes put wetlands at risk of significant water loss and increased evaporation rates potentially leading to periods of reduced runoff during the peak- growing season and in extreme cases, wetland dry out.
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    Using ground-based thermal imagery to estimate debris thickness over glacial ice: fieldwork considerations to improve the effectiveness
    (Cambridge University Press, 2022) Aubry-Wake, Caroline; Lamontagne-Hallé, Pierrick; Baraër, Michel; McKenzie, Jeffrey; Pomeroy, John
    Debris-covered glaciers are an important component of the mountain cryosphere and influence the hydrological contribution of glacierized basins to downstream rivers. This study examines the potential to make estimates of debris thickness, a critical variable to calculate the sub-debris melt, using ground-based thermal infrared radiometry (TIR) images. Over four days in August 2019, aground-based, time-lapse TIR digital imaging radiometer recorded sequential thermal imagery of a debris-covered region of Peyto Glacier, Canadian Rockies, in conjunction with 44 manual excavations of debris thickness ranging from 10 to 110 cm, and concurrent meteorological observations. Inferring the correlation between measured debris thickness and TIR surface temperature as a base, the effectiveness of linear and exponential regression models for debris thickness estimation from surface temperature was explored. Optimal model performance (R2 of 0.7, RMSE of10.3 cm) was obtained with a linear model applied to measurements taken on clear nights just before sunrise, but strong model performances were also obtained under complete cloud cover during daytime or nighttime with an exponential model. This work presents insights into the use of surface temperature and TIR observations to estimate debris thickness and gain knowledge of the state of debris-covered glacial ice and its potential hydrological contribution.
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    Assessing hydrological sensitivity of grassland basins in the Canadian Prairies to climate using a basin classification-based virtual modelling approach
    (Copernicus Publications on behalf of the European Geosciences Union, 2022) Spence, Christopher; He, Zhihua; Shook, Kevin R.; Mekonnen, Balew A.; Pomeroy, John; Whitfield, Colin; Wolfe, Jared
    Significant challenges from changes in climate and land use face sustainable water use in the Canadian Prairies ecozone. The region has experienced significant warming since the mid-20th century, and continued warming of an additional 2 _C by 2050 is expected. This paper aims to enhance understanding of climate controls on Prairie basin hydrology through numerical model experiments. It approaches this by developing a basin-classification-based virtual modelling framework for a portion of the Prairie region and applying the modelling framework to investigate the hydrological sensitivity of one Prairie basin class (High Elevation Grasslands) to changes in climate. High Elevation Grasslands dominate much of central and southern Alberta and parts of south-western Saskatchewan, with outliers in eastern Saskatchewan and western Manitoba. The experiments revealed that High Elevation Grassland snowpacks are highly sensitive to changes in climate but that this varies geographically. Spring maximum snow water equivalent in grasslands decreases 8% °C-1 of warming. Climate scenario simulations indicated that a 2 °C increase in temperature requires at least an increase of 20% in mean annual precipitation for there to be enough additional snowfall to compensate for enhanced melt losses. The sensitivity in runoff is less linear and varies substantially across the study domain: simulations using 6 °C of warming, and a 30% increase in mean annual precipitation yields simulated decreases in annual runoff of 40%in climates of the western Prairie but 55% increases in climates of eastern portions. These results can be used to identify those areas of the region that are most sensitive to climate change and highlight focus areas for monitoring and adaptation. The results also demonstrate how a basin classification based virtual modelling framework can be applied to evaluate regional-scale impacts of climate change with relatively high spatial resolution in a robust, effective and efficient manner.
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    Using StableWater Isotopes to Analyze Spatiotemporal Variability and Hydrometeorological Forcing in Mountain Valley Wetlands
    (MDPI, 2022) Hathaway, Julia M.; Petrone, Richard; Westbrook, Cherie; Rooney, Rebecca; Langs, Lindsey
    Wetlands in Montane and Subalpine Subregions are increasingly recognized as important hydrologic features that support ecosystem function. However, it is currently not clear how climate trends will impact wetland hydrological processes (e.g., evaporative fluxes) across spatiotemporal scales. Therefore, identifying the factors that influence wetland hydrologic response to climate change is an important step in understanding the sensitivity of these ecosystems to environmental change. We used stable water isotopes of hydrogen and oxygen (δ2H and δ18O), coupled with climate data, to determine the spatiotemporal variability in isotopic signatures of wetland source waters and understand the influence of evaporative fluxes on wetlands in the Kananaskis Valley. Our results show that the primary runoff generation mechanism changes throughout the growing season resulting in considerable mixing in wetland surface waters. We found that evaporative fluxes increased with decreasing elevation and that isotopic values became further removed from meteoric water lines during the late peak- and into the post-growing seasons. These findings suggest that a change in the water balance in favor of enhanced evaporation (due to a warmer and longer summer season than present) will not only lead to greater water loss from the wetlands themselves but may also reduce the water inputs from their catchments.
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    Storms and Precipitation Across the continental Divide Experiment (SPADE)
    (American Meteorological Society (AMS), 2022) Thériault, Julie M.; Leroux, Nicolas; Stewart, Ronald; Bertoncini, André; Déry, Stephen J.; Pomeroy, John; Thompson, Hadleigh; Smith, Hilary; Mariani, Zen; Desroches-Lapointe, Aurélie; Mitchell, Selina; Almonte, Juris
    The Canadian Rockies are a triple-continental divide, whose high mountains are drained by major snow-fed and rain-fed rivers flowing to the Pacific, Atlantic, and Arctic Oceans. The objective of the April–June 2019 Storms and Precipitation Across the continental Divide Experiment (SPADE) was to determine the atmospheric processes producing precipitation on the eastern and western sides of the Canadian Rockies during springtime, a period when upslope events of variable phase dominate precipitation on the eastern slopes. To do so, three observing sites across the divide were instrumented with advanced meteorological sensors. During the 13 observed events, the western side recorded only 25% of the eastern side’s precipitation accumulation, rainfall occurred rather than snowfall, and skies were mainly clear. Moisture sources and amounts varied markedly between events. An atmospheric river landfall in California led to moisture flowing persistently northward and producing the longest duration of precipitation on both sides of the divide. Moisture from the continental interior always produced precipitation on the eastern side but only in specific conditions on the western side. Mainly slow-falling ice crystals, sometimes rimed, formed at higher elevations on the eastern side (>3 km MSL), were lifted, and subsequently drifted westward over the divide during nonconvective storms to produce rain at the surface on the western side. Overall, precipitation generally crossed the divide in the Canadian Rockies during specific spring-storm atmospheric conditions although amounts at the surface varied with elevation, condensate type, and local and large-scale flow fields.
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    Fire and Ice: The Impact of Wildfire-Affected Albedo and Irradiance on Glacier Melt
    (Wiley Open Access [Commercial Publisher], American Geophysical Union [Society Publisher], 2022) Aubry-Wake, Caroline; Bertoncini, André; Pomeroy, John
    Wildfire occurrence and severity is predicted to increase in the upcoming decades with severe negative impacts on human societies. The impacts of upwind wildfire activity on glacier melt, a critical source of freshwater for downstream environments, were investigated through analysis of field and remote sensing observations and modeling experiments for the 2015–2020 melt seasons at the well-instrumented Athabasca Glacier in the Canadian Rockies. Upwind wildfire activity influenced surface glacier melt through both a decrease in the surface albedo from deposition of soot on the glacier and through the impact of smoke on atmospheric conditions above the glacier. Athabasca Glacier on-ice weather station observations show days with dense smoke were warmer than clear, non-smoky days, and sustained a reduction in surface shortwave irradiance of 103 W m-2 during peak shortwave irradiance and an increase in longwave irradiance of 10 W m-2, producing an average 15 W m-2 decrease in net radiation. Albedo observed on-ice gradually decreased after the wildfires started, from a summer average of 0.29 in 2015 before the wildfires to as low as 0.16 in 2018 after extensive wildfires and remained low for two more melt seasons without substantial upwind wildfires. Reduced all-wave irradiance partly compensated for the increase in melt due to lowered albedo in those seasons when smoke was detected above Athabasca Glacier. In melt seasons without smoke, the suppressed albedo increased melt by slightly more than 10% compared to the simulations without fire-impacted albedo, increasing melt by 0.42 m. w.e. in 2019 and 0.37 m. w.e. in 2020.
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    Simulating the hydrological impacts of land use conversion from annual crop to perennial forage in the Canadian Prairies using the Cold Regions Hydrological Modelling platform
    (Copernicus Publications on behalf of the European Geosciences Union, 2022) Cordeiro, Marcos; Liang, Kang; Wilson, Henry; Vanrobaeys, Jason; Lobb, David; Fang, Xing; Pomeroy, John
    The Red River is one of the largest contributing sources of discharge and nutrients to the world’s 10th largest freshwater lake, Lake Winnipeg. Conversion of large areas of annual cropland to perennial forage has been proposed as a strategy to reduce both flooding and nutrient export to Lake Winnipeg. Such reductions could occur either via a reduction in the concentration of nutrients in runoff or through changes in the basin-scale hydrology, resulting in a lower water yield and the concomitant export of nutrients. This study assessed the latter mechanism by using the physically based Cold Regions Hydrological Modelling platform to examine the hydrological impacts of land use conversion from annual crops to perennial forage in a subbasin of the La Salle River basin in Canada. This basin is a typical agricultural subbasin in the Red River Valley, characterised by flat topography, clay soils, and a cold subhumid, continental climate. Long-term simulations (1992–2013) of the major components of water balance were compared between canola and smooth bromegrass, representing a conversion from annual cropping systems to perennial forage. An uncertainty framework was used to represent a range of fall soil saturation status (0% to 70 %), which governs the infiltration to frozen soil in the subsequent spring. The model simulations indicated that, on average, there was a 36.5±6.6% (36.5±7.2 mm) reduction in annual cumulative discharge and a 29.9±16.3% (2.6±1.6m3 s-1/ reduction in annual peak discharge due to forage conversion over the assessed period. These reductions were driven by reduced overland flow 52.9±12.8% (28.8±10.1 mm), increased peak snowpack (8.1±1.5 %, 7.8±1.6 mm), and enhanced infiltration to frozen soils (66.7±7.7 %, 141.5±15.2 mm). Higher cumulative evapotranspiration (ET) from perennial forage (34.5±0.9 %, 94.1±2.5 mm) was also predicted by the simulations. Overall, daily soil moisture under perennial forage was 18.0% (57.2±1.2 mm) higher than that of crop simulation, likely due to the higher snow water equivalent (SWE) and enhanced infiltration. However, the impact of forage conversion on daily soil moisture varied interannually. Soil moisture under perennial forage stands could be either higher or lower than that of annual crops, depending on antecedent spring snowmelt infiltration volumes.