Snowmelt hydrograph interpretation: Revealing watershed scale hydrologic characteristics of the Yellowstone volcanic plateau

W. Payton Gardner, David D. Susong, D. Kip Solomon, Henry Heasler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Snowmelt hydrograph analysis and groundwater age dates of cool water springs on the Yellowstone volcanic plateau provide evidence of high volumes of groundwater circulation in watersheds comprised of quaternary Yellowstone volcanics. Ratios of maximum to minimum mean daily discharge and average recession indices are calculated for watersheds within and surrounding the Yellowstone volcanic plateau. A model for snowmelt recession is used to separate groundwater discharge from overland runoff, and compare groundwater systems. Hydrograph signal interpretation is corroborated with chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) and tritium concentrations in cool water springs on the Yellowstone volcanic plateau. Hydrograph parameters show a spatial pattern correlated with watershed geology. Watersheds comprised dominantly of quaternary Yellowstone volcanics are characterized by slow streamflow recession, low maximum to minimum flow ratios. Cool springs sampled within the Park contain CFC's and tritium and have apparent CFC age dates that range from about 50 years to modern. Watersheds comprised of quaternary Yellowstone volcanics have a large volume of active groundwater circulation. A large, advecting groundwater field would be the dominant mechanism for mass and energy transport in the shallow crust of the Yellowstone volcanic plateau, and thus control the Yellowstone hydrothermal system.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)209-222
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Hydrology
Volume383
Issue number3-4
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 30 2010

Keywords

  • Environmental tracers
  • Hydrograph analysis
  • Snowmelt hydrology
  • Yellowstone

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