Atmospheric deposition was monitored for ammonium, nitrate, and sulfate concentrations and precipitation amounts in the Flat Tops Wilderness Area of northwestern Colorado at Ned Wilson Lake beginning in 1984 to detect changes that might result from future emissions associated with development of oil-shale resources in northwestern Colorado. Renewed monitoring, by the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with Rio Blanco County, to determine the current status of atmospheric deposition has been ongoing since 2003 at Ned Wilson Lake. Two new monitoring sites were located near Ripple Creek Pass near the Flat Tops Wilderness area and about 12 kilometers north of Ned Wilson Lake because access to the area near Ripple Creek Pass is less difficult and less expensive, particularly in winter and spring. The intent of this study was to establish whether the new deposition data being collected near Ripple Creek Pass, near the northern boundary of the Flat Tops Wilderness Area, would be representative of deposition at sensitive sites within the wilderness such as Ned Wilson Lake and to compare more current (2003 through 2005) deposition data with earlier data (1984 through 1991).
At Ned Wilson Lake, bulk ammonium and nitrate concentrations collected from 1984 through 1991 were similar to those from 2003 through 2005. However, in the same comparison significant differences in sulfate concentrations were observed, indicating a decrease consistent with other regional findings for similar periods. Comparison of concentrations of constituents at two bulk-deposition sites located at Ned Wilson Lake (NWLB) and near Ripple Creek Pass (RCPB) showed only one significant difference (p = 0.05) with the winter bulk nitrate concentrations for NWLB significantly lower than winter concentrations from RCPB. Another comparison of concentrations of constituents between the bulk deposition site RCPB and a wet deposition site 100 meters away (RCPW) showed no significant differences for concentrations of ammonium, nitrate, and sulfate for both the winter and summer comparisons. While results indicate many similarities in concentrations of constituents and in seasonal variability in those concentrations, they are based on a short period of study. Precipitation amounts from RCPB were less than the amounts collected at NWLB, and precipitation amounts from RCPW were less than the amounts collected at RCPB. Although RCPB may not be a perfect replacement site for NWLB, it may be similar enough to represent atmospheric deposition in areas of the Flat Tops Wilderness of northwestern Colorado.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Comparison of Atmospheric Deposition Among Three Sites In and Near the Flat Tops Wilderness Area, Colorado, 2003-2005