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TRACING GLACIAL ICE AND SNOW MELTWATER WITH ISOTOPES

TRACING GLACIAL ICE AND SNOW MELTWATER WITH ISOTOPES,David G. Williams,Jessica Cable,Kiona Ogle

TRACING GLACIAL ICE AND SNOW MELTWATER WITH ISOTOPES  
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This report describes accomplishments for the two-year project investigating temporal dynamics of glacial ice and snow meltwater, rainfall and base flow contributions to stream flow of Dinwoody Creek in the Wind River Range of western Wyoming. The primary objectives were to 1) characterize diurnal, seasonal and interannual variation in the isotopic composition of water in Dinwoody Creek, 2) quantify the contribution of baseflow and surface runoff to stream discharge using isotopic methods, and 3) partition the surface runoff component of stream discharge into that derived from glacial melt, snowmelt, and summer precipitation. This project involved a collaboration among the University of Wyoming Stable Isotope Facility, directed by the project PI (Williams), Dr. Jessica Cable of the Department of Botany and Dr. Kiona Ogle of the Departments of Botany and Statistics. Dr. Cable led the field and laboratory studies and statistical modeling and will be the primary author of a forthcoming journal article describing the findings from this project to be submitted in June 2009 to Hydrological Processes. Dr. Cable was supported part time as a postdoctoral student on this project and was mentored by Drs. Williams and Ogle. Dr. Ogle provided valuable leadership on the statistical modeling used to partition stream flow and quantify the contribution of glacier meltwater. We estimated the fractional contribution of glacier melt water to flow in Dinwoody Creek on seasonal and interannual time scales. The stable isotope composition of water (oxygen-18 and deuterium) from the Dinwoody Creek watershed and glacier system was determined on a temporally intensive scale in 2007 and 2008. Field sampling of the primary contributors to streamflow, namely snow melt, glacier melt, rain, and baseflow, were collected during the summers of 2007 and 2008. Stream samples were collected every 48 h over the entire melt season from mid-April to late October using an automated stream sampler placed beside an unimpaired USGS gauging station low in the watershed. The data were analyzed with a hierarchical Bayesian framework that allowed integration of temporal and spatial autocorrelation in the isotope data. Glacial melt contributed a significantly large proportion to stream flow in a low flow year (2007) and when stream flow was low during a high flow year (early and late summer 2008). In 2008, a large and persistent snowpack and associated melt dominated stream flow in the middle of the summer. Summer rainfall had minimal contribution to streamflow. Our findings strongly support the assertion that loss of alpine glaciers in the Wind River Range with climate warming will substantially reduce streamflow, but only during periods when snowmelt contributions are low.
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