Canada’s Fraser River Basin transitioning from a nival to a hybrid system in the late 20th century
Thursday, 18 December 2014
The Fraser River Basin (FRB) is the largest river draining to the Pacific Ocean in British Columbia (BC), Canada, and it provides the world’s most abundant salmon populations. With recent climate change, the shifting hydrologic regime of the FRB is evaluated using hydrological modeling results over the period 1949 to 2006. To quantify the contribution of snowmelt to runoff generation, the ratio RSR, defined as the division of the sum of the snowmelt across the watershed by the integrated runoff over the water year, is employed. Modeled results for RSR at Hope, BC — the furthest downstream hydrometric station of the FRB — show a significant decrease (from 0.80 to 0.65) in the latter part of the 20th century. RSR is found to be mainly suppressed by a decrease of the snowmelt across the FRB with a decline with 107 mm by 26 % along the simulation period. There is also a prominent shift in the timing of streamflow, with the spring freshet at Hope, BC advancing 30 days followed by reduced summer flows for over two months. The timing of the peak spring freshet becomes even earlier when moving upstream of the FRB owing to short periods of time after melting from the snow source to the rivers.