Climate change over the high-mountain versus plain areas: Effects on the land surface hydrologic budget in the Alpine area and northern Italy

Claudio Cassardo, Seon Ki Park, Marco Galli, O. S. Sungmin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Climate change may intensify during the second half of the current century. Changes in temperature and precipitation can exert a significant impact on the regional hydrologic cycle. Because the land surface serves as the hub of interactions among the variables constituting the energy and water cycles, evaluating the land surface processes is essential to detail the future climate. In this study, we employ a trusted soil-vegetation-atmosphere transfer scheme, called the University of Torino model of land Processes Interaction with Atmosphere (UTOPIA), in offline simulations to quantify the changes in hydrologic components in the Alpine area and northern Italy, between the period of 1961-1990 and 2071-2100. The regional climate projections are obtained by the Regional Climate Model version 3 (RegCM3) via two emission scenarios - A2 and B2 from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Special Report on Emissions Scenarios. The hydroclimate projections, especially from A2, indicate that evapotranspiration generally increases, especially over the plain areas, and consequently the surface soil moisture decreases during summer, falling below the wilting point threshold for an extra month. In the high-mountain areas, due to the earlier snowmelt, the land surface becomes snowless for an additional month. The annual mean number of dry (wet) days increases remarkably (slightly), thus increasing the risk of severe droughts, and slightly increasing the risk of floods coincidently. Our results have serious implications for human life, including agricultural production, water sustainability, and general infrastructures, over the Alpine and adjacent plain areas and can be used to plan the managements of water resources, floods, irrigation, forestry, hydropower, and many other relevant activities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3331-3350
Number of pages20
JournalHydrology and Earth System Sciences
Issue number6
StatePublished - 14 Jun 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgements. The authors acknowledge the Earth System Physics Section of the ICTP, Italy, for providing the RegCM3 dataset. Sungmin O was partly supported by the University of Torino (UNITO) for visiting its Department of Physics under the World Wide Style grant. Claudio Cassardo and Seon Ki Park are supported by the governments of Italy and Korea, respectively, for visiting each institution for collaborative research via the bilateral scientific agreements. This work was partly supported by the National Research Foundation grant (no. 2009-0083527) funded by the Korean government (MSIP). The work is partially done during a sabbatical leave by Seon Ki Park to UNITO in 2017.

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