River discharge and freshwater runoff to the Barents Sea under present and future climate conditions

Rutger Dankers*, Hans Middelkoop

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


River discharge forms a major freshwater input into the Arctic Ocean, and as such it has the potential to influence the oceanic circulation. As the hydrology of Arctic river basins is dominated by cryospheric processes such as snow accumulation and snowmelt, it may also be highly sensitive to a change in climate. Estimating the water balance of these river basins is therefore important, but it is complicated by the sparseness of observations and the large uncertainties related to the measurement of snowfalls. This study aims at simulating the water balance of the Barents Sea drainage basin in Northern Europe under present and future climate conditions. We used a regional climate model to drive a large-scale hydrological model of the area. Using simulated precipitation derived from a climate model led to an overestimation of the annual discharge in most river basins, but not in all. Under the B2 scenario of climate change, the model simulated a 25% increase in freshwater runoff, which is proportionally larger than the projected precipitation increase. As the snow season is 30-50 day shorter, the spring discharge peak is shifted by about 2-3 weeks, but the hydrological regime of the rivers remains dominated by snowmelt.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)131-153
Number of pages23
JournalClimatic Change
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2008
Externally publishedYes

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