Stable sulfur isotope ratios and major ions in bulk snowpack samples were monitored at a network of 52 high-elevation sites along and near the Continental Divide from 1993 to 1999. This information was collected to better define atmospheric deposition to remote areas of the Rocky Mountains and to help identify the major source regions of sulfate in winter deposition. Average annual ??34S values at individual sites ranged from + 4.0 to + 8.2??? and standard deviations ranged from 0.4 to 1.6???. The chemical composition of all samples was extremely dilute and slightly acidic; average sulfate concentrations ranged from 2.4 to 12.2 ??eql-1 and pH ranged from 4.82 to 5.70. The range of ??34S values measured in this study indicated that snowpack sulfur in the Rocky Mountains is primarily derived from anthropogenic sources. A nearly linear relation between ??34S and latitude was observed for sites in New Mexico, Colorado, and southern Wyoming, which indicates that snowpack sulfate in the southern part of the network was derived from two isotopically distinct source regions. Because the major point sources of SO2 in the region are coal-fired powerplants, this pattern may reflect variations in the isotopic composition of coals burned by the plants. The geographic pattern in ??34S for sites farther to the north in Wyoming and Montana was much less distinct, perhaps rflecting the paucity of major point sources of SO2 in the northern part of the network.
Additional publication details
Use of stable sulfur isotopes to identify sources of sulfate in Rocky Mountain snowpacks