Lane, S.N., Bakker, M., Balin D., Lovis, B. and Regamey, B. (2014)

Climate and human forcing of Alpine river flow

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Anton J. Schleiss, Giovanni de Cesare, Mario J. Franca and Michael Pfister (eds)
River flow in Alpine environments is likely to be highly sensitive to climate change because of the effects of warming upon snow and ice, and hence the intra-annual distribution of river runoff. It is also likely to be influenced strongly by human impacts both upon hydrology (e.g. flow abstraction) and river regulation. This paper compares the river flow and sediment flux of two Alpine drainage basins over the last 5 to 7 decades, one that is largely unimpacted by human activities, one strongly impacted by flow abstraction for hydroelectricity. The analysis shows that both river flow and sediment transport capacity are strongly dependent upon the effects of temperature and precipitation availability upon snow accumulation. As the latter tends to increase annual maximum flows, and given the non-linear form of most sediment transport laws, current warming trends may lead to increased sedimentation in Alpine rivers. However, extension to a system impacted upon by flow abstraction reveals the dominant effect that human activity can have upon river sedimentation but also how human response to sediment management has co-evolved with climate forcing to make disentangling the two very difficult.
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