To test the transmissivity feedback hypothesis of runoff generation, surface and subsurface waters were monitored and sampled during the 1996 snowmelt at various topographic positions in a 41 ha forested headwater catchment at Sleepers River, Vermont. Two conditions that promote transmissivity feedback existed in the catchment during the melt period. First, saturated hydraulic conductivity increased toward land surface, from a geometric mean of 3.6 mm h-1 in glacial till to 25.6 mm h-1 in deep soil to 54.0 mm h-1 in shallow soil. Second, groundwater levels rose to within 0.3 m of land surface at all riparian sites and most hillslope sites at peak melt. The importance of transmissivity feedback to streamflow generation was tested at the catchment scale by examination of physical and chemical patterns of groundwater in near-stream (discharge) and hillslope (recharge/lateral flow) zones, and within a geomorphic hollow (convergent flow). The presence of transmissivity feedback was supported by the abrupt increase in streamflow as the water table rose into the surficial, transmissive zone; a flattening of the groundwater level vs. streamflow curve occurred at most sites. This relation had a clockwise hysteresis (higher groundwater level for given discharge on rising limb than at same discharge on falling limb) at riparian sites, suggesting that the riparian zone was the dominant source area during the rising limb of the melt hydrograph. Hysteresis was counterclockwise at hillslope sites, suggesting that hillslope drainage controlled the snowmelt recession. End member mixing analysis using Ca, Mg, Na, dissolved organic carbon (DOC), and Si showed that stream chemistry could be explained as a two-component mixture of groundwater high in base cations and an O-horizon/overland flow water high in DOC. The dominance of shallow flow paths during events was indicated by the high positive correlation of DOC with streamflow (r2 = 0.82). Despite the occurrence of transmissivity feedback, hillslope till and soil water were ruled out as end members primarily because their distinctive high-Si composition had little or no effect on streamwater composition. Till water from the geomorphic hollow had a chemistry very close to streamwater base flow, and may represent the base flow end member better than the more concentrated riparian groundwater. During snowmelt, streamwater composition shifted as this base flow was diluted - not by shallow groundwater from the hillslope, but rather by a more surficial O-horizon/overland flow water.Surface and subsurface waters were analyzed to test the transmissivity feedback of runoff generation during the 1996 snowmelt in a catchment at Sleepers River, Vermont. The importance of transmissivity feedback to stream flow generation was tested by examination of physical and chemical patterns of groundwater in near-stream and hillslope zones within a geomorphic hollow. End member mixing analysis of Ca, Mg, Na, dissolved organic carbon (DOC), and Si showed that stream chemistry could be explained as a two-component mixture of groundwater high in base cations and an O-horizon/overland flow water high in DOC. The dominance of shallow water paths during the events was indicated by the high positive correlation of DOC with streamflow (r2 = 0.82).
Additional publication details
A hydrometric and geochemical approach to test the transmissivity feedback hypothesis during snowmelt