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  1. null (Ed.)
  2. Abstract

    As large, high‐severity forest fires increase and snowpacks become more vulnerable to climate change across the western USA, it is important to understand post‐fire disturbance impacts on snow hydrology. Here, we examine, quantify, parameterize, model, and assess the post‐fire radiative forcing effects on snow to improve hydrologic modelling of snow‐dominated watersheds having experienced severe forest fires. Following a 2011 high‐severity forest fire in the Oregon Cascades, we measured snow albedo, monitored snow, and micrometeorological conditions, sampled snow surface debris, and modelled snowpack energy and mass balance in adjacent burned forest (BF) and unburned forest sites. For three winters following the fire, charred debris in the BF reduced snow albedo, accelerated snow albedo decay, and increased snowmelt rates thereby advancing the date of snow disappearance compared with the unburned forest. We demonstrate a new parameterization of post‐fire snow albedo as a function of days‐since‐snowfall and net snowpack energy balance using an empirically based exponential decay function. Incorporating our new post‐fire snow albedo decay parameterization in a spatially distributed energy and mass balance snow model, we show significantly improved predictions of snow cover duration and spatial variability of snow water equivalent across the BF, particularly during the late snowmelt period. Field measurements, snow model results, and remote sensing data demonstrate that charred forests increase the radiative forcing to snow and advance the timing of snow disappearance for several years following fire. Copyright © 2016 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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  3. Abstract

    Projected changes in air temperature, precipitation, and vapor pressure for the Willamette River Basin (Oregon, USA) over the next century will have significant impacts on the river basin water balance, notably on the amount of evapotranspiration (ET). Mechanisms of impact on ET will be both direct and indirect, but there is limited understanding of their absolute and relative magnitudes. Here, we developed a spatially explicit, daily time‐step, modeling infrastructure to simulate the basin‐wide water balance that accounts for meteorological influences, as well as effects mediated by changing vegetation cover type, leaf area, and ecophysiology. Three CMIP5 climate scenarios (Lowclim, Reference, and HighClim) were run for the 2010–2100 period. Besides warmer temperatures, the climate scenarios were characterized by wetter winters and increasing vapor pressure deficits. In the mid‐range Reference scenario, our landscape simulation model (Envision) projected a continuation of forest cover on the uplands but a threefold increase in area burned per year. A decline (12–30%) in basin‐wide mean leaf area index (LAI) in forests was projected in all scenarios. The lower LAIs drove a corresponding decline in ET. In a sensitivity test, the effect of increasing CO2on stomatal conductance induced a further substantial decrease (11–18%) in basin‐wide mean ET. The net effect of decreases in ET and increases in winter precipitation was an increase in annual streamflow. These results support the inclusion of changes in land cover, land use, LAI, and ecophysiology in efforts to anticipate impacts of climate change on basin‐scale water balances.

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