Modeling soil moisture processes and recharge under a melting snowpack

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Recharge into granitic bedrock under a melting snowpack is being investigated as part of a study designed to understand hydrologic processes involving snow at Yosemite National Park in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. Snowpack measurements, accompanied by water content and matric potential measurements of the soil under the snowpack, allowed for estimates of infiltration into the soil during snowmelt and percolation into the bedrock. During portions of the snowmelt period, infiltration rates into the soil exceeded the permeability of the bedrock and caused ponding to be sustained at the soil-bedrock interface. During a 5-d period with little measured snowmelt, drainage of the ponded water into the underlying fractured granitic bedrock was estimated to be 1.6 cm d?1, which is used as an estimate of bedrock permeability. The numerical simulator TOUGH2 was used to reproduce the field data and evaluate the potential for vertical flow into the fractured bedrock or lateral flow at the bedrock-soil interface. During most of the snowmelt season, the snowmelt rates were near or below the bedrock permeability. The field data and model results support the notion that snowmelt on the shallow soil overlying low permeability bedrock becomes direct infiltration unless the snowmelt rate greatly exceeds the bedrock permeability. Late in the season, melt rates are double that of the bedrock permeability (although only for a few days) and may tend to move laterally at the soil-bedrock interface downgradient and contribute directly to streamflow. ?? Soil Science Society of America.
Publication type Conference Paper
Publication Subtype Conference Paper
Title Modeling soil moisture processes and recharge under a melting snowpack
DOI 10.2136/vzj2006.0135
Volume 7
Issue 1
Year Published 2008
Language English
Contributing office(s) California Water Science Center
Larger Work Title Vadose Zone Journal
First page 350
Last page 357
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