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Oxygen and hydrogen isotopes in snow were measured in weekly profiles during the growth and decline of a sloped subalpine snowpack, southern Idaho, 2011–2012. Isotopic steps (10‰, δ18O; 80‰, δD) were preserved relative to physical markers throughout the season, albeit with some diffusive smoothing. Melting stripped off upper layers without shifting isotopes within the snowpack. Meltwater is in isotopic equilibrium with snow at the top but not with snow at each respective collection height. Transport of meltwater occurred primarily along pipes and lateral flow paths allowing the snowpack to melt initially in reverse stratigraphic order. Isotope diffusivities are ~2 orders of magnitude faster than estimated from experiments but can be explained by higher temperature and porosity. A better understanding of how snowmelt isotopes change during meltout improves hydrograph separation methods, whereas constraints on isotope diffusivities under warm conditions improve models of ice core records in low-latitude settings.

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This document was originally published in Geophysical Research Letters by Wiley on behalf of the American Geophysical Union. Copyright restrictions may apply. doi: 10.1002/2015GL067605