A large portion of the freshwater in western Canada originates as snowpack from the northern Rocky Mountains. Temperature and precipitation in 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, trends in temperature, precipitation, snow accumulation, and snowmelt over western Canada are examined using the Mann-Kendall non-parametric test and an original GIS-based approach to trend analysis on a newly produced high-resolution gridded climate dataset for the period 1950–2010. Temporal and spatial analyses of these hydroclimatic variables reveal that daily minimum temperature has increased more than daily maximum temperature, particularly during the cold season, and at higher elevations, contributing to earlier spring melt. Precipitation has decreased throughout the cold season and increased in the warm season, particularly in the northern half of the study area. Snow accumulation has decreased through all months of the year while snowmelt results indicate slight increases in mid-winter melt events and an earlier onset of the spring freshet. This study provides a summary of detected trends in key hydroclimatic variables across western Canada regarding the effects these changes can have on the spring freshet and streamflow throughout the region.
- snow accumulation
- spatial analysis
- trend analysis
- western Canada
- First received 30 January 2016.
- Accepted in revised form 17 August 2016.
- © Crown Copyright 2016