University of Oulu

Meriö, L.‐J., Ala‐aho, P., Linjama, J., Hjort, J., Kløve, B., & Marttila, H. ( 2019). Snow to precipitation ratio controls catchment storage and summer flows in boreal headwater catchments. Water Resources Research, 55, 4096– 4109.

Snow to precipitation ratio controls catchment storage and summer flows in boreal headwater catchments

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Author: Meriö, Leo‐Juhani1; Ala‐aho, Pertti1; Linjama, Jarmo2;
Organizations: 1Water, Energy and Environmental Engineering Research Unit, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
2Finnish Environment Institute, Helsinki, Finland
3Geography Research Unit, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 2.2 MB)
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Language: English
Published: American Geophysical Union, 2019
Publish Date: 2019-06-14


Catchment storage sustains ecologically important low flows in headwater systems. Understanding the factors controlling storage is essential in analysis of catchment vulnerability to global change. We calculated catchment storage and storage sensitivity of streamflow for 61 boreal headwater catchments in Finland. We also explored the connection between computed storage indices and low flow conditions. The relationships between selected climate, snow, and catchment characteristics and calculated storage properties and low flows were investigated, in order to assess the importance of different factors that render catchments vulnerable to climate and environmental change. We found that the most sensitive areas to climate change were located in the southern boreal coastal zone, with fine‐grained soils and agricultural areas. In contrast, catchments in the middle and northern boreal zone, with till and peatland soils and higher snow water equivalent values, were less sensitive under current conditions. In addition, we found a threshold at a snow to precipitation ratio of 0.35. Above that threshold, summer low flows were generally sensitive to changes in snow conditions, whereas below that threshold catchment characteristics gained importance and the sensitivity was more directly related to changes in temperature and timing of rainfall. These findings suggest that a warming climate will have pronounced impacts on hydrology and catchment sensitivity related to snow quantity and snow cover duration in certain snow to precipitation ratio zones. Moreover, land use activities had an impact on storage properties in agricultural and drained peatland areas, resulting in a negative effect on low flows.

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Series: Water resources research
ISSN: 0043-1397
ISSN-E: 1944-7973
ISSN-L: 0043-1397
Volume: 55
Issue: 5
Pages: 4096 - 4109
DOI: 10.1029/2018WR023031
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 1171 Geosciences
1172 Environmental sciences
218 Environmental engineering
Funding: This study was funded by the Maa‐ja vesitekniikan tuki ry. J. H. (projects 285040 and 315519) and P. A. ‐H. (project 316349) acknowledge the Academy of Finland.
Academy of Finland Grant Number: 285040
Detailed Information: 285040 (Academy of Finland Funding decision)
315519 (Academy of Finland Funding decision)
316349 (Academy of Finland Funding decision)
Copyright information: ©2019. American Geophysical Union.