State Water Resources Research Institute Program

Project ID: 2007MT150B
Title: Predictive Modeling of Snowmelt Dynamics: Thresholds and the Hydrologic Regime of the Tenderfoot Creek Experimental Forest, Montana
Project Type: Research
Start Date: 3/01/2007
End Date: 2/28/2009
Congressional District: At Large
Focus Categories: Hydrology, Climatological Processes, Models
Keywords: Hydrologic Model, Uncertainty, Residence Time, Snowmelt, Runoff
Principal Investigators: Marshall, Lucy; McGlynn, Brian Leonard (Montana State University)
Federal Funds: $ 17,000
Non-Federal Matching Funds: $ 41,332
Abstract: Understanding how water moves through a watershed is crucial to water resource planning. Precipitation and snowmelt entering a watershed follow a wide range of flow pathways resulting in a distribution of travel times to the stream. Consequently, stream flow at any given moment is a mixture of water from a range of watershed source areas and flow pathways. In the case of snowmelt runoff generation (spring melt), streamflow is composed of older resident groundwater/soil water and new snowmelt. We seek to link process scale observations to conceptual modeling techniques and assess the tradeoffs between hydrologic process incorporation and increasing model complexity. If we can attribute elements of a model to observed hydrological processes, our model structure is likely to be more transferable and more reasonably applied to watersheds of different topographic and land surface characteristics.

Our two major objectives with this proposed work are:

  1. To synthesize extensive existing field observations at the Tenderfoot Creek Experimental Forest into a conceptual predictive modeling framework evaluating the first order controls on spatio-temporal runoff dynamics, new snowmelt/old groundwater runoff partitioning and the impact of terrain and forest practices.
  2. To initiate watershed tracer experiments quantifying new snowmelt runoff direct contributions to streamflow and resident (old) groundwater contributions to spring runoff across sub-watersheds to explicate the residence time of new water within in each of 7 watersheds and better inform conceptual model underpinnings.

Our approaches combine spatially and temporally intensive observation and new data collection, with parsimonious watershed modeling techniques. We seek to integrate multiple modes of observation and analysis to provide information critical for maintaining and managing sustainable water resources.

Progress/Completion Report, PDF

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