Freshwater resources are essential for human life. Significant portions of freshwater are provided by mountains, which are largely determined by meltwater originating from glaciers and snow reserves, and precipitation generated by air which is forced upwards due to a mountain range. The precipitation is for this reason higher in mountain ranges than in surrounding lowlands. Due to their large storage potential, mountain ranges can act as water towers and provide important freshwater resources for billions of people living in mountain regions and surrounding lowlands.
Climate change is expected to impact the hydrology and cryosphere of mountainous river basins. The cryosphere is the frozen water part of the Earth’s system. Surface and groundwater availability will likely be affected and the frequency and intensity of hydrological extremes are expected to change. It can therefore be expected that climate change will have a large impact on the society and the environment; impacts that will be amplified with the anticipated socio-economic developments and associated changes in water demand.
Understanding climate change impacts in mountainous river basins is challenging due to the complexity of the mountain environment and the wide range of scales on which (mountain-)hydrological processes can occur. This makes it necessary to examine these effects at different spatial scales. The research described in this thesis aims at understanding the cryospheric and hydrological impacts and challenges of climate change across different spatial scales. Novel modelling approaches have been developed and applied to assess these impacts at the catchment- and regional/basin-scale. The findings of the presented research can eventually help us to better understand the future cryospheric and hydrological impacts of climate change in mountainous river basins.