Climate change over the high-mountain versus plain areas: Effects on the land surface hydrologic budget in the Alpine area and northern Italy

Cassardo, Claudio; Park, Seon Ki; Galli, Marco; O, Sungmin

Climate change may intensify during the second half of the current century. Changes in temperature and precipitation can exert a significant impact on the regional hydrologic cycle. Because the land surface serves as the hub of interactions among the variables constituting the energy and water cycles, evaluating the land surface processes is essential to detail the future climate. In this study, we employ a trusted soil–vegetation–atmosphere transfer scheme, called the University of Torino model of land Processes Interaction with Atmosphere (UTOPIA), in offline simulations to quantify the changes in hydrologic components in the Alpine area and northern Italy, between the period of 1961–1990 and 2071–2100. The regional climate projections are obtained by the Regional Climate Model version 3 (RegCM3) via two emission scenarios – A2 and B2 from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Special Report on Emissions Scenarios. The hydroclimate projections, especially from A2, indicate that evapotranspiration generally increases, especially over the plain areas, and consequently the surface soil moisture decreases during summer, falling below the wilting point threshold for an extra month. In the high-mountain areas, due to the earlier snowmelt, the land surface becomes snowless for an additional month. The annual mean number of dry (wet) days increases remarkably (slightly), thus increasing the risk of severe droughts, and slightly increasing the risk of floods coincidently. Our results have serious implications for human life, including agricultural production, water sustainability, and general infrastructures, over the Alpine and adjacent plain areas and can be used to plan the managements of water resources, floods, irrigation, forestry, hydropower, and many other relevant activities.

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Cassardo, Claudio / Park, Seon Ki / Galli, Marco / et al: Climate change over the high-mountain versus plain areas: Effects on the land surface hydrologic budget in the Alpine area and northern Italy. 2018. Copernicus Publications.

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