Much of the freshwater in western Canada originates in the Rocky Mountains as snowpack. Temperature and precipitation patterns throughout the region control the amount of snow accumulated and stored throughout the winter, and the intensity and timing of melt during the spring freshet. Therefore, changes in temperature, precipitation, snow depth, and snowmelt over western Canada are examined through comparison of output from the current and future periods of a series of regional climate models for the time periods 1971–2000 and 2041–2070. Temporal and spatial analyses of these hydroclimatic variables indicate that minimum temperature is likely to increase more than maximum temperature, particularly during the cold season, possibly contributing to earlier spring melt. Precipitation is projected to increase, particularly in the north. In the coldest months of the year snow depth is expected to increase in northern areas and decrease across the rest of study area. Snowmelt results indicate increases in mid-winter melt events and an earlier onset of the spring freshet. This study provides a summary of potential future climate using key hydroclimatic variables across western Canada with regard to the effects these changes may have on streamflow and the spring freshet, and thus water resources, throughout the study area.
- snow accumulation
- spatial analysis
- western Canada
- First received 30 January 2016.
- Accepted in revised form 17 August 2016.
- © Crown Copyright 2016