Drivers of Spatiotemporal Patterns of Surface Water Inputs in a Catchment at the Rain-Snow Transition Zone of the Water-Limited Western United States
Spatial and temporal dynamics of rainfall and snowmelt (i.e., surface water inputs, SWI) control soil moisture, groundwater recharge, and streamflow at annual, seasonal, and event scales. In the rain-snow transition zone, comprising a large portion of the mountainous western United States, there is limited understanding of the sensitivity of spatiotemporal SWI dynamics across hydrologically variable water years (WYs). We modeled rainfall and snowpack dynamics in a small headwater catchment (1.8 km2) spanning the rain-snow transition in southwestern Idaho, USA, for two hydrologically distinct WYs (2011 and 2014). In wet WY 2011 and dry WY 2014, total precipitation drove spatial variability in annual SWI. Snow drifts generated more SWI (901–2080 mm) than high-elevation scour zones (442–640 mm), which generated less SWI than mid-elevation, non-drift locations (452–784 mm). Seasonally, energy fluxes differed most during the snowmelt period, where higher net radiation at lower elevations and south-facing slopes drove SWI production. At the rain-on-snow (ROS) event scale, higher elevations and north-facing slopes generated 15–20 % of annual SWI, due mainly to higher turbulent fluxes. The most productive ROS events occurred after peak snow water equivalent (SWE), when rainfall fell onto ripe snowpacks. Snow drift locations were less susceptible to melt during ROS events, offset by the larger cold content and snowpack mass. Thus, catchment water resources depend on SWI magnitude, location, and timing, which are moderated by drift persistence at all temporal scales. As the climate warms, shifts in spatiotemporal SWI distribution are expected with declines in snowfall and snowfall redistribution in this area.
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Hale, K.; Kiewiet, L.; Trujillo, E.; Krohe, C.; Hedrick, A.; Marks, D.; . . . and Godsey, S.E. (2023). "Drivers of Spatiotemporal Patterns of Surface Water Inputs in a Catchment at the Rain-Snow Transition Zone of the Water-Limited Western United States". Journal of Hydrology, 616, 128699. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhydrol.2022.128699
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