Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Enhancement of a parsimonious water balance model to simulate surface hydrology in a glacierized watershed

May 23, 2018

The U.S. Geological Survey monthly water balance model (MWBM) was enhanced with the capability to simulate glaciers in order to make it more suitable for simulating cold region hydrology. The new model, MWBMglacier, is demonstrated in the heavily glacierized and ecologically important Copper River watershed in Southcentral Alaska. Simulated water budget components compared well to satellite‐based observations and ground measurements of streamflow, evapotranspiration, snow extent, and total water storage, with differences ranging from 0.2% to 7% of the precipitation flux. Nash Sutcliffe efficiency for simulated and observed streamflow was greater than 0.8 for six of eight stream gages. Snow extent matched satellite‐based observations with Nash Sutcliffe efficiency values of greater than 0.89 in the four Copper River ecoregions represented. During the simulation period 1949 to 2009, glacier ice melt contributed 25% of total runoff, ranging from 12% to 45% in different tributaries, and glacierized area was reduced by 6%. Statistically significant (p < 0.05) decreasing and increasing trends in annual glacier mass balance occurred during the multidecade cool and warm phases of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, respectively, reinforcing the link between climate perturbations and glacier mass balance change. The simulations of glaciers and total runoff for a large, remote region of Alaska provide useful data to evaluate hydrologic, cryospheric, ecologic, and climatic trends. MWBM glacier is a valuable tool to understand when, and to what extent, streamflow may increase or decrease as glaciers respond to a changing climate.

Publication Year 2018
Title Enhancement of a parsimonious water balance model to simulate surface hydrology in a glacierized watershed
DOI 10.1029/2017JF004482
Authors Melissa M. Valentin, Roland J. Viger, Ashley E. Van Beusekom, Lauren E. Hay, Terri S. Hogue, Nathan Leon Foks
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Geophysical Research F: Earth Surface
Index ID 70197221
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization National Research Program - Central Branch; Core Science Analytics, Synthesis, and Libraries; Advanced Research Computing (ARC)