Contrasting Impacts of a Hotter and Drier Future on Streamflow and Catchment Scale Sediment Flux in the High Andes

J. R. Slosson, C. Kelleher, G. D. Hoke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Fluvial sediment transport in high mountain regions is uniquely sensitive to changes in hydroclimate that alter the timing and magnitude of streamflow contributions from snowmelt, glaciers, and other cryoforms. In the high Andes of Argentina and Chile, mountain river systems serve millions of people in foothill communities and large metropolitan areas alike, yet these same rivers can also carry high sediment loads that compromise water quality and infrastructure. Regional climate predictions are also increasingly forecasting a warmer and drier future that is likely to alter hydrologic regimes and sediment transport dynamics. In this study, we use hydrologic modeling techniques and sediment rating curves compiled from historical data to propagate a suite of endmember climate projections to estimate changes in streamflow and consequent impacts on catchment-scale sediment transport on both the Argentine and Chilean sides of the high Andes. Our results show reductions in streamflow of up to 57% under scenarios with reduced precipitation and even larger decreases in sediment flux, while outcomes under a warming scenario with no changes to precipitation were highly variable. Our results further show that high winter streamflow events may increase in magnitude in Chile while mountain communities in Argentina may increasingly face water shortages. These results indicate that different adaptation and mitigation strategies may be needed on either side of the Andes in response to a changing hydroclimate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2021JF006182
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research F: Earth Surface
Volume126
Issue number8
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 2021

Keywords

  • Argentina
  • Chile
  • climate change
  • HBV
  • sediment
  • streamflow

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Geophysics

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