Hydrologic flowpaths of snowpack runoff in a high-elevation catchment

TitleHydrologic flowpaths of snowpack runoff in a high-elevation catchment
Publication TypeConference Proceedings
Year of Conference1992
AuthorsWilliams, M. W.
Conference Name60th Annual Western Snow Conference
Series TitleProceedings of the 60th Annual Western Snow Conference
Date PublishedApril 1992
PublisherWestern Snow Conference
Conference LocationJackson Hole, Wyoming
KeywordsGlobal climate change, High-elevation basins, hydrochemical effects, Regional climate change

High-elevation basins will show hydrologic and hydrochemical effects from global or regional climate change much sooner than will basins located at lower elevations. The combination of small hydrologic storage in groundwater reservoirs, the predominance of intrusive igneous rocks that weather slowly, the thin acidic soils, large amount of precipitation, and low buffering ability of alpine basins result in high-elevation areas of the Sierra Nevada responding quickly to changes in the quantity and quality of precipitation. In particular, global or regional climate change may increase both the magnitude and frequency of floods from snowpack runoff. Hydrologic and hydrochemical effects of snowpack runoff are a function of the path water takes as it leaves the snowpack and moves towards surface waters. It is essential to understand hydrological flowpaths in high-elevation basins if we are to forecast the hydrologic and hydrochemical consequences of a changing climate.