We explored the hydrologic and ecological responses of a headwater mountain catchment, Loch Vale watershed, to climate change and doubling of atmospheric CO2 scenarios using the Regional Hydro‐Ecological Simulation System (RHESSys). A slight (2°C) cooling, comparable to conditions observed over the past 40 years, led to greater snowpack and slightly less runoff, evaporation, transpiration, and plant productivity. An increase of 2°C yielded the opposite response, but model output for an increase of 4°C showed dramatic changes in timing of hydrologic responses. The snowpack was reduced by 50%, and runoff and soil water increased and occurred 4–5 weeks earlier with 4°C warming. Alpine tundra photosynthetic rates responded more to warmer and wetter conditions than subalpine forest, but subalpine forest showed a greater response to doubling of atmospheric CO2 than tundra. Even though water use efficiency increased with the double CO2 scenario, this had little effect on basin‐wide runoff because the catchment is largely unvegetated. Changes in winter and spring climate conditions were more important to hydrologic and vegetation dynamics than changes that occurred during summer.
Earth Systems Research Center
Water Resources Research
American Geophysical Union (AGU)
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Baron, J.S., M.D. Hartman, L.E. Band and R.B. Lammers (2000) Sensitivity of a high-elevation Rocky Mountain watershed to altered climate and CO2, Water Resources Research, 36(1):89-99.
Copyright 2000 by the American Geophysical Union.