Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2018MT323B

Identifying seasonal spatial distribution of geothermal groundwater discharge to surface water using UAV-based thermal infrared imaging, LaDuke hot springs, MT.

Institute: Montana
Year Established: 2018 Start Date: 2018-03-01 End Date: 2020-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $14,850 Total Non-Federal Funds: $31,010

Principal Investigators: Jeremy Crowley, Alan English, Raja Nagisetty

Abstract: The use of heat as a tracer of groundwater and surface water (GWSW) interaction has a long history of application in water resource investigations. The ability of researchers to quickly and inexpensively collect data on GWSW interaction using this method has led to a proliferation of research in this field. Early studies used individual temperature sensors, and more recent advances have led to distributed temperature sensors (DTS) and forward looking infrared (FLIR). Seasonal studies of GWSW interactions have been hindered by the timing of contrast in temperature between the groundwater and surface water, which limits the optimal periods of study to the summer and winter. Geothermal groundwater systems, which have a very high temperature and contrast compared to surface water, give us the potential to investigate year-round seasonality in GWSW interaction. This study will use FLIR from an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) platform, stream and groundwater discharge, and precipitation to evaluate the seasonality and spatial distribution of GWSW interaction of a small geothermal feature. LaDuke hot springs is a developed geothermal spring, which discharges into the Yellowstone River about five miles northwest of Gardiner in southwest Montana. Yellowstone National Park (YNP) officials and researchers are concerned that pumping of geothermal groundwater outside of the park boundaries may have an impact on geothermal features within the park. This study will investigate the seasonality and spatial distribution of GWSW interaction of LaDuke hot springs and the Yellowstone River to determine if the geothermal system is vulnerable to short-term changes in climate.