research

Mountain Streams
 
Glacial meltwater contributions to the upper Hood River and the implications of climate change
Anne Nolin, Anne Jefferson, Sarah Lewis, Jeff Phillippe

Mount Hood is the tallest mountain in Oregon and its 6 of its 11 glaciers feed into the five irrigation districts in Hood River Valley. Mount Hood’s glaciers have receded up to 61% in the past century and are projected to continue decreasing with further climate warming. Because glaciers store precipitation as snow and ice during winter and release it via meltwater during summer, glacier meltwater reduces the interseasonal and interannual variability of streamflow.

However, the volume of meltwater from Mount Hood glaciers is not known because the glacial-fed streams are not gaged. The focus of this work is on current and projected glacier meltwater contributions to streamflow from three glaciers that feed two main branches of the Hood River.

The specific objectives are to:
1. Determine the interseasonal and interannual proportions of glacier meltwater to streamflow in the Middle Fork Hood River and West Fork Hood River;
2. Estimate changes in glacier meltwater production on timescales of 10- to 50-years and impacts on peak flows and low flows in the Middle Fork Hood River and West Fork Hood River.

Our approach uses a combination of direct streamflow measurements and a spatially distributed, physically based hydrologic model. During the summer of 2007, we will quantify the amount of runoff from the Eliot, Coe and Ladd glaciers on the north side of Mount Hood. Measurements will be constructed using five gages set up immediately below glacier termini and several kilometers downstream. These data, along with historical gage records will serve as a calibration for a Distributed Hydrologic Vegetation and Soils Model (DHSVM), which simulates glacier meltwater runoff and basin-wide streamflow. Output from the model will allow us to project changes in glacier meltwater contributions to Hood River under climate warming scenarios. This research will improve the fundamental understanding of current and future effects of rapidly receding glaciers on water resources in a regime of water scarcity. We will communicate our results to USFS hydrologists and water managers of the relevant irrigation districts.

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page last updated May 24, 2007