Journal article

From dwindling ice to headwater lakes: could dams replace glaciers in the European Alps?

  • Farinotti, Daniel Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL), Birmensdorf, Switzerland -
  • Pistocchi, Alberto European Commission, DG Joint Research Centre (JRC), Institute for Environment and Sustainability, Ispra, Italy
  • Huss, Matthias Department of Geosciences, University of Fribourg, Switzerland - Laboratory of Hydraulics, Hydrology and Glaciology (VAW), ETH Zurich, Switzerland
Published in:
  • Environmental Research Letters. - 2016, vol. 11, no. 5, p. 54022
English The potential exploitation of areas becoming ice-free in response to ongoing climate change has rarely been addressed, although it could be of interest from the water management perspective. Here we present an estimate for the potential of mitigating projected changes in seasonal water availability from melting glaciers by managing runoff through reservoirs. For the European Alps we estimate that by the end of the century, such a strategy could offset up to 65% of the expected summer-runoff changes from presently glacierized surfaces. A first-order approach suggests that the retention volume potentially available in the areas becoming deglacierized is in excess of the volume required for achieving the maximal possible mitigation by more than one order of magnitude. Obviously, however, such a strategy cannot compensate for the reduction in annual runoff caused by glacier ice depletion. Our estimates indicate that by 2070–2099, 0.73 ± 0.67 km3 a−1 of this non-renewable component of the water cycle could be missing in Alpine water supplies.
Faculté des sciences et de médecine
Département de Géosciences
  • English
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