Project summary

Mountains are often referred to as water towers because they store a lot of water due to typically high precipitation and low evapotranspiration. A significant proportion of mountain water is stored in the form of perennial or seasonal snowpack or glaciers, substantially affecting both seasonal and extreme catchment runoff. In many mountainous regions of the world, snow and ice melt is a major contributor to annual streamflow delivering the water to lower-lying regions. Mountain water is therefore very important for both natural ecosystems and society. However, snow is generally very sensitive to changes in air temperature. Therefore, with the recent increase in air temperature, more precipitation falls as rain rather than snow leading to a decrease in snowpack in most parts of the world’s mountainous regions. This also affects catchment runoff, including runoff extremes.

Despite many studies demonstrating the importance of snow in the hydrological cycle, still little is known about the mutual interactions of the individual factors affecting the water storage and release in catchments with different attributes (elevation, topography, vegetation, geology, etc.) under the changing climate. Additionally, several studies have also shown that most of the runoff in the specific season comes from the opposite season’s precipitation, highlighting the importance of catchment water storage and transit times.

Hydrological methods based on the analysis of data from a large sample of catchments with different characteristics (large-sample hydrology; comparative hydrology) allow a comprehensive analysis of the hydrological regime and thus a description of hydrological variability and change in the components of the water balance. These methods provide insight into hydrological processes that are shaped by environmental and climatic factors and allow more general conclusions to be drawn. Such comparative hydrology can better explore differences and similarities between catchments, allowing them to be further classified and regionalized.

The objectives of the proposed PhD project are 1) to investigate how the water from mountain catchments is partitioned between individual water balance components in the critical zone, 2) to relate the investigated interactions to climate variability and catchment attributes, and 3) to simulate how projected climate changes will affect both the temporal and spatial distribution of water sources and runoff. The analyses will be based on modelling approaches applied to a large set of catchments in different regions. As streamflow generation may be vulnerable to snow loss, the project will help to understand how rain and snowmelt are partitioned between evapotranspiration, soil and groundwater storage, and runoff, which is important for future water availability.

We are looking for a highly motivated candidate with a scientific interest in mountain hydrology. Experience in hydrological modelling and programming skills are an advantage. The candidate will be a member of the Hydrology Group at the Department of Physical Geography and Geoecology, Charles University, Prague. Close collaboration with the University of Zurich, Department of Geography (Prof. Jan Seibert) is also expected.

Selected publications of the research group related to the project

Hotovy, O., Nedelcev, O., Jenicek, M. (2023). Changes in rain-on-snow events in mountain catchments in the rain-snow transition zone. Hydrological Sciences Journal, 68(4), 572-584. https://doi.org/10.1080/02626667.2023.2177544.

Jenicek, M., Hnilica, J., Nedelcev, O., Sipek, V. (2021). Future changes in snowpack will impact seasonal runoff and low flows in Czechia. Journal of Hydrology: Regional Studies, 37, 100899. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ejrh.2021.100899.

Nedelcev O., Jenicek, M. (2021). Trends in seasonal snowpack and their relation to climate variables in mountain catchments in Czechia, Hydrological Sciences Journal, 66 (16), 2340-2356. https://doi.org/10.1080/02626667.2021.1990298.

Lendzioch T, Langhammer J, Vlček L, Minařík R. (2021): Mapping the Groundwater Level and Soil Moisture of a Montane Peat Bog Using UAV Monitoring and Machine Learning. Remote Sensing. 13(5):907. https://doi.org/10.3390/rs13050907.

Jenicek, M., Ledvinka, O. (2020). Importance of snowmelt contribution to seasonal runoff and summer low flows in Czechia. Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, 24 (7), 3475–3491. https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-24-3475-2020.

Su, Y., Langhammer, J., Jarsjo, J. (2017). Geochemical responses of forested catchments to bark beetle infestation: Evidence from high frequency in-stream electrical conductivity monitoring, Journal of Hydrology, 550, 635–649. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecohyd.2017.06.002

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