Integrating glaciers raster-based modelling in large catchments hydrological balance: the Rhone case study



A raster-based glacier sub-model was successfully introduced in the distributed hydrological model FEST-WB to simulate the water balance and surface runoff of large Alpine catchments. The glacier model is based on temperature-index approach for melt, on linear reservoir for melt water propagation into the ice and on mass balance for accumulation; the initialization of the volume of ice on the basin was based on a formulation depending on surface topography. The model was first tested on a sub-basin of the Rhone basin (Switzerland), which is for 62% glaciated; the calibration and validation were based on comparison between simulated and observed discharge from 1999 to 2008. The model proved to be suitable to simulate the typical discharge seasonality of a heavily glaciated basin. The performance of the model was also tested by simulating discharge in the whole Swiss Rhone basin, in which glaciers contribution is not negligible, in fact, in summer, about the 40% of the discharge is due to glacier melt. The model allowed to take into account the volume of water coming from glaciers melt and its simple structure is suitable for analysis of the effects of climate change on hydrological regime of high mountain basins, with available meteorological forcing from current RCM. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.