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Biotic and abiotic processes controlling water chemistry during snowmelt at rabbit ears pass, Rocky Mountains, Colorado, U.S.A.

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DOI: 10.1007/BF01100436

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Abstract

The chemical composition of snowmelt, groundwater, and streamwater was monitored during the spring of 1991 and 1992 in a 200-ha subalpine catchment on the western flank of the Rocky Mountains near Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Most of the snowmelt occurred during a one-month period annually that began in mid-May 1991 and mid-April 1992. The average water quality characteristics of individual sampling sites (meltwater, streamwater, and groundwater) were similar in 1991 and 1992. The major ions in meltwater were differentially eluted from the snowpack, and meltwater was dominated by Ca2+, SO4/2-, and NO3/-. Groundwater and streamwater were dominated by weathering products, including Ca2+, HCO3/- (measured as alkalinity), and SiO2, and their concentrations decreased as snowmelt progressed. One well had extremely high NO3/- concentrations, which were balanced by Ca2+ concentrations. For this well, hydrogen ion was hypothesized to be generated from nitrification in overlying soils, and subsequently exchanged with other cations, particularly Ca2+. Solute concentrations in streamwater also decreased as snowmelt progressed. Variations in groundwater levels and solute concentrations indicate thai most of the meltwater traveled through the surficial materials. A mass balance for 1992 indicated that the watershed retained H+, NH4/+, NO3/-, SO4/2- and Cl- and was the primary source of base cations and other weathering products. Proportionally more SO4/2- was deposited with the unusually high summer rainfall in 1992 compared to that released from snowmelt, whereas NO3/- was higher in snowmelt and Cl- was the same. The sum of snowmelt and rainfall could account for greater than 90% of the H+ and NH4/+ retained by the watershed and greater than 50% of the NO3/-.The chemical composition of snowmelt, groundwater, and streamwater was monitored during the spring of 1991 and 1992 in a 200-ha subalpine catchment on the western flank of the Rocky Mountains near Steamboat Springs, Colorado. The major ions in meltwater were differentially eluted from the snowpack, and meltwater was dominated by Ca2+, SO42-, and NO3-. Groundwater and streamwater were dominated by weathering products and their concentrations decreased as snowmelt progressed. Solute concentrations in streamwater also decreased as snowmelt progressed. A mass balance for 1992 showed that the watershed retained H+, NH4+, NO3-, SO42- and Cl- and was the primary source of base cations and other weathering products.

Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Conference Paper
Publication Subtype:
Conference Paper
Title:
Biotic and abiotic processes controlling water chemistry during snowmelt at rabbit ears pass, Rocky Mountains, Colorado, U.S.A.
DOI:
10.1007/BF01100436
Volume
79
Issue:
1-4
Year Published:
1995
Language:
English
Publisher:
Kluwer Academic Publishers
Publisher location:
Dordrecht, Netherlands
Larger Work Title:
Water, Air, and Soil Pollution
First page:
171
Last page:
190
Number of Pages:
20
Conference Title:
Proceedings of the Symposium on Ecosystem Behaviour: Evaluation of Integrated Monitoring in Small Catchments
Conference Location:
Prague, Czech Repub
Conference Date:
18 September 1993 through 20 September 1993