The high-latitude ecosystems of the Yukon are vulnerable to climate change, including hydrologic changes. To predict potential changes in growing season water balance in the Yukon, SNAP and Yukon College collaborated to develop a modeling tool for mapping future growing-season water availability.
The model focused on estimating the growing-season balance between precipitation (P) and potential evapotranspiration (PET), a term used to describe the likely amount of water that could be returned to the atmosphere through the combination of evaporation and transpiration.
Results showed that much of the Yukon is likely to remain water-limited during summer months, with the balance between P and PET remaining negative. Subtle changes were predicted in this balance, with some regional drying, particularly in the boreal regions. However, the greatest impacts to ecosystem hydrology may stem from associated climate-driven changes such as increases in growing season length and growing degree days and associated vegetation shifts; changing drainage from permafrost loss; and altered fire cycles.