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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: SNOW AND HYDROLOGIC PROCESSES IN THE INTERMOUNTAIN WEST Title: Rapid streamflow generation from subsurface flow

item Seyfried, Mark
item Marks, Daniel

Submitted to: Geoscience and Remote Sensing Symposium Proceedings
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: September 10, 2007
Publication Date: September 10, 2007
Citation: Seyfried, M.S., Grant, L., Marks, D.G. 2007. Rapid streamflow generation from subsurface flow. Geoscience and Remote Sensing Symposium Proceedings.

Technical Abstract: Traditional streamflow forecasting from snowmelt-dominated basins has been based on snowpack dynamics. A weakness of this approach is a failure to accommodate the increasingly common mid-winter rainfall events, which are often responsible for major flooding. We recently combined a snowmelt and soil water balance model in order to predict the spatial and temporal distribution of water flow through the root zone (through flow) in a snowmelt-dominated watershed (Reynolds Mountain in Idaho, USA). No attempt was made to calculate subsurface flow through the underlying fractured bedrock. We found: 1) a measurable soil water storage component and 2) extremely rapid streamflow response to through flow input even when the water source (snow drift) is hundreds of meters from the stream channel. The implication is that subsurface water throughout the watershed is interconnected and that streamflow response is insensitive to the spatial location of inputs. At present, it is difficult to know how far the second observation can be generalized, except to say that it is consistent with widespread observations that flooding events are often dominated by old, subsurface water that must be similarly interconnected.

Last Modified: 11/30/2015
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