Elastic deformation as a tool to investigate watershed storage connectivity

Noah Clayton, Ellen Knappe, Alissa M. White, Hilary Martens, Donald F. Argus, Nicholas Lau, Adrian A. Borsa, Rebecca Bendick, W. Payton Gardner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Storage-discharge relationships and dynamic changes in storage connectivity remain key unknowns in understanding and predicting watershed behavior. In this study, we use Global Positioning System measurements of load-induced Earth surface displacement as a proxy for total water storage change in four climatologically diverse mountain watersheds in the western United States. Comparing total water storage estimates with stream-connected storage derived from hydrograph analysis, we find that each of the investigated watersheds exhibits a characteristic seasonal pattern of connection and disconnection between total and stream-connected storage. We investigate how the degree and timing of watershed-scale connectivity is related to the timing of precipitation and seasonal changes in dominant hydrologic processes. Our results show that elastic deformation of the Earth due to water loading is a powerful new tool for elucidating dynamic storage connectivity and watershed discharge response across scales in space and time.

Original languageEnglish
Article number110
JournalCommunications Earth and Environment
Volume5
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 29 2024

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