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Environment / Sustainability

Interdisciplinary Water Resources Seminar

February 12, 2010

Mark Williams, Ph.D., Fellow at the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research at the University of Colorado, will be at CSU on Feb. 17 to talk about how climate may impact the chemical characteristics of water sourced by two seasonally snow-covered catchments at high elevations on the Colorado Front Range.

Servicing a high-altitude climate site on Niwot Ridge, circa 1954; Continental Divide in the background. Photo by John Marr, courtesy of NWT LTER program.

Wednesday, Feb. 17
Noon-1 p.m.
Lory Student Center
Virginia Dale Room

All interested faculty, students, and off-campus water professionals are encouraged to attend the Spring 2010 Interdisciplinary Water Resources Seminar. 

The seminar is sponsored by the CSU Water Center, USDA-ARS, Civil and Environmental Engineering, and Forest, Rangeland, and Watershed Stewardship.

For more information, contact Reagan Waskom at or visit the CWI web site.

Seminar details

Our speaker is Mark Williams, Ph.D., Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, University of Colorado. The seminar takes place in the Lory Student Center, Virginia Dale Room.  The title of Willam's lecture is, "Potential Climate Impacts on the Hydrology of High Elevation Catchments, Colorado Front Range."

Speaker bio

Williams's research interest is the hydrology and biogeochemistry of mountain areas, looking at the interaction of organisms with their environment, focusing on classical environmental variables such as soil, rocks, and minerals as well as surrounding water sources and the local atmosphere.

The majority of his research has been conducted in the Rocky Mountains, Sierra Nevada of California, the Tien Shan, China, Andes of South America,and more recently in the Himalayas. Mark is on the faculty of the Hydrology Program in Geography and his classes can be used to satisfy the Hydrology Certification Program in Geography.

Mark is the PI of the Niwot Ridge LTER program, lead on the Southern Rockies/Colorado Plateau NEON climate domain, and part of the Boulder Creek Critical Zones Observatory; he’s happy to chat about these and other programs.

Summary of seminar

Potential climate impacts on the hydrochemistry of two seasonally snow-covered catchments is evaluated using 24 years of data from Niwot Ridge Long Term Ecological Research Site, Colorado. At the larger (220 ha), higher elevation (3570 m) GL4 catchment annual discharge did not change significantly based on nonparametric trend testing.

However, October streamflow volumes and groundwater storage did increase, despite drought conditions near the end of the record in 2000-2004. In contrast, at the smaller (8 ha), lower elevation (3400 m) MART catchment, annual discharge decreased significantly over the study period with the most substantial changes in July-September.

The study period was separated into “wet”, “normal”, and “dry” years based on the 75th and 25th quartiles of annual precipitation. Results indicate that MART is particularly sensitive to changes in precipitation with dry years exhibiting decreased snowmelt peak ßows, earlier snowmelt timing, decreased annual discharge, and reduced late-season ßows.

GL4 was less susceptible to changes in precipitation and surprisingly late-season ßow volumes (Sept.-Oct.) were not significantly different between wet, normal, and dry conditions. Surprisingly, during dry years both the concentrations and annual fluxes of Ca2+ and SO42- increased in the outflow of GL4, but not at the Martinelli catchment.

These differences in hydrochemistry were particularly pronounced during the low-flow period. Streamwater chemistry in GL4 during drought years resembled that of permafrost, suggesting augmented flow during the fall due to permafrost melt.

This study shows that seasonally snow-covered catchments are particularly sensitive to changes in climate, but the hydrochemical response may depend on landscape characteristics.

Contact: Reagan Waskom
Phone: (970) 491-6308