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Snowmelt is the primary hydrologic event in the studied subalpine watershed, generating streamflow for 3 months from a 1-month snowmelt period which commenced in mid-April 1992 and mid-May 1993. The melting rate of the snowpack varied diurnally and was asymmetrical, increasing rapidly to a maximum at the onset of daily melt followed by an attenuated decrease. Streamflow varied diurnally, displaying a similar pattern to that of snowmelt, but variations were much less marked. Groundwater levels also varied diurnally, but were more attenuated than that of streamflow, and the time of daily maximum coincided with the streamflow maximum, whereas the snowmelt maximum preceded them. The major ions in meltwater were preferentially eluted from the snowpack, and meltwater was dominated by calcium, sulfate, and nitrate. The concentration decreases observed in snowmelt are partially reflected in stream water. Groundwater was dominated by calcium and generally bicarbonate. Concentrations of weathering products (silica, alkalinity, and base cations) increased down gradient, consistent with an increase in water residence time. A watershed mass balance for 1992 and 1993 indicates that (1) a major percentage of the primarily atmospherically derived N-species are retained by the watershed, (2) the watershed is the major source of base cations and silica, and (3) for the 2 year combined, atmospheric deposition balances stream water transport of sulfate and chloride.
Additional Publication Details
Hydrochemical processes during snowmelt in a subalpine watershed, Colorado, USA
Biogeochemistry of seasonally snow-covered catchments. Proc. symposium, Boulder, 1995