State Water Resources Research Institute Program

Project ID: 2012MT277B
Title: Student Research Fellowship: Soil temperature and moisture controls on stream recharge from snowmelt events, Lost Horse Canyon, Bitterroot Mountains, MT
Project Type: Research
Start Date: 3/01/2012
End Date: 2/28/2013
Congressional District: MT at large
Focus Categories: Hydrology
Keywords: snowmelt, runoff
Principal Investigator: Woelber, Brett
Federal Funds: $ 750
Non-Federal Matching Funds: $ 315
Abstract: This study will improve our knowledge of soil controls on stream recharge during spring snowpack melt in semi-arid mountains. I installed an array of piezometers and soil sensors extending from the meteorological station to a nearby stream ~20 m away, which completes the current set of sensors needed to evaluate the anticipated path of snowmelt transport. Installing these piezometers with high-precision pressure transducers will show spatial and temporal changes in groundwater pressure.

Except for routine site maintenance, much of the research for this project will consist of data manipulation and analysis. With meteorological station snow depth data and SNOTEL snowwater- equivalent (SWE) data, I will calculate the residual pressure changes that occur in the soil column after the pressure exerted by snowpack is removed. This will display the timing and magnitude of groundwater pressure pulses, which can be contrasted with stream flow pulses through both direct correlation and spectral analysis. This data will be displayed as a 3D pressure model that shows the movement of pressure peaks over time. It will also show how areas of high pressure will connect to equalize pressure gradients across the study reach, showing precisely how small changes in pressure drive the soil moisture transport system. And lastly, opportunities exist to incorporate data from this project into either an existing soil/climate model or one that I design, running these data through thousands of iterations to see the sensitivity of the snow-soilstream system to certain conditions and thresholds.

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