ESA CCI Research Fellowship: Esteban Alonso

Project: SnowHotspots

Fellowship project summary:

The Mediterranean climate characteristic of the mountains of southern Europe make the snowpack a crucial fresh water resource in these regions. The snowpack synchronises the strong seasonality of precipitation with the demand during the dry period typical of the Mediterranean climate, making downstream populations and economical activities sensitive to the variability of the mountainous snowpack. Despite this, the dynamics of the snowpack remains unknown in most of the southern European mountains, due to a general lack of direct observations and ground based monitoring initiatives. This complicates the design of climate change hydrological adaptation strategies in these areas in which given their relatively mild conditions, the snowpack is presumably sensitive to warming.

In SnowHotspots, I will create a snowpack reanalysis covering central and southern European mountains by assimilating the long term data generated in the frame of the Snow and LST projects that form part of ESA's Climate Change Initiative in an ensemble of simulations generated by the physically based the Flexible Snow Model, using the Multiple Snow Assimilation System open source framework. Thanks to this new database, I will study the topographical control of the snow freshwater resources, identifying the optimal snow hydrological hotspots of the Mediterranean catchments, and its sensitivity to the expected climatological changes.


The main objective of this project is to estimate the sensitivity of the snow hydrological hotspots in southern Europe to climate change. The secondary objectives include:

Research fellow: Dr Esteban Alonso González

Host Institution: Pyrenean Institute of Ecology - CSIC