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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Snowmelt Runoff Conceptualization Based on Tracer and Satellite Data

Authors
item Martinec, Jaroslav - CONSULTING HYDROLOGIST
item RANGO, ALBERT

Submitted to: National Workshop on Integrated Catchment Management
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: October 30, 1999
Publication Date: November 15, 1999

Interpretive Summary: Most snowmelt infiltrates into the soil and was originally thought to have a much delayed effect on the streamflow hydrograph because of long sub-surface transit times. Using tracers such as tritium, it was determined that a new concept of the effect of snowmelt in mountain basins had to be developed which took into account the fact that infiltration quickly activates outflow from groundwater storage in river channels. At the same time, it was determined that remote sensing of snow cover area using satellites was perfect for identifying where snowmelt could be produced in large basins. The concentration of tracer and remote sensing technologies was instrumental in developing the Snowmelt Runoff Model which is now widely used around the world by government and university scientists.

Technical Abstract: As a result of thermonuclear test explosions in the atmosphere, tritium concentrations in precipitation in the 1960's and 1970's varied strongly from year to year as well as in the winter and summer half years. This paper illustrates how the contrasting tritium concentration in snow and in groundwater was used to develop a Snowmelt Runoff Model (SRM). A new insight into the runoff mechanism and the role of the recession flow provided a concept of transforming the snowmelt into river flow on a daily basis. The adopted deterministic approach, without calibration of parameters, requires snow cover monitoring by satellites. While tritium tracing contributed to the model design, remote sensing enables the SRM to be used around the world.

Last Modified: 9/10/2014
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