Hydrological Processes, Volume 32, Issue 12

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Storage, mixing, and fluxes of water in the critical zone across northern environments inferred by stable isotopes of soil water
Matthias Sprenger | Doerthe Tetzlaff | J. M. Buttle | Sean K. Carey | J. P. McNamara | Hjalmar Laudon | Nadine J. Shatilla | Chris Soulsby

We thank Audrey Innes for isotope analysis at University of Aberdeen for Bruntland Burn and Krycklan sites, Johannes Tiwari (SLU) for isotope sampling in Krycklan, Pernilla Lofvenius (SLU) for providing PET data for Krycklan (via SITES), and Jeff McDonnell and Kim Janzen (University of Saskatchewan) for soil water isotope analysis for the Dorset and Wolf Creek sites. The Krycklan part was funded by the KAW Branch-Point project. We acknowledge the funding from the European Research Council (ERC, project GA 335910 VeWa). We thank the Editor and three anonymous reviewers for their critical comments during the peer-review process.

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Using stable isotopes to estimate travel times in a data-sparse Arctic catchment: Challenges and possible solutions
Doerthe Tetzlaff | Thea Ilaria Piovano | Pertti Ala‐aho | Aaron Smith | Sean K. Carey | Philip Marsh | Philip A. Wookey | Lorna E. Street | Chris Soulsby

Use of isotopes to quantify the temporal dynamics of the transformation of precipitation into run-off has revealed fundamental new insights into catchment flow paths and mixing processes that influence biogeochemical transport. However, catchments underlain by permafrost have received little attention in isotope-based studies, despite their global importance in terms of rapid environmental change. These high-latitude regions offer limited access for data collection during critical periods (e.g., early phases of snowmelt). Additionally, spatio-temporal variable freeze-thaw cycles, together with the development of an active layer, have a time variant influence on catchment hydrology. All of these characteristics make the application of traditional transit time estimation approaches challenging. We describe an isotope-based study undertaken to provide a preliminary assessment of travel times at Siksik Creek in the western Canadian Arctic. We adopted a model-data fusion approach to estimate the volumes and isotopic characteristics of snowpack and meltwater. Using samples collected in the spring/summer, we characterize the isotopic composition of summer rainfall, melt from snow, soil water, and stream water. In addition, soil moisture dynamics and the temporal evolution of the active layer profile were monitored. First approximations of transit times were estimated for soil and streamwater compositions using lumped convolution integral models and temporally variable inputs including snowmelt, ice thaw, and summer rainfall. Comparing transit time estimates using a variety of inputs revealed that transit time was best estimated using all available inflows (i.e., snowmelt, soil ice thaw, and rainfall). Early spring transit times were short, dominated by snowmelt and soil ice thaw and limited catchment storage when soils are predominantly frozen. However, significant and increasing mixing with water in the active layer during the summer resulted in more damped steam water variation and longer mean travel times (~1.5 years). The study has also highlighted key data needs to better constrain travel time estimates in permafrost catchments.

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Spatio-temporal tracer variability in the glacier melt end-member - How does it affect hydrograph separation results?
Jan Schmieder | Jakob Garvelmann | Thomas Marke | Ulrich Strasser

Geochemical and isotopic tracers were often used in mixing models to estimate glacier melt contributions to streamflow, whereas the spatio‐temporal variability in the glacier melt tracer signature and its influence on tracer‐based hydrograph separation results received less attention. We present novel tracer data from a high‐elevation catchment (17 km2, glacierized area: 34%) in the Oetztal Alps (Austria) and investigated the spatial, as well as the subdaily to monthly tracer variability of supraglacial meltwater and the temporal tracer variability of winter baseflow to infer groundwater dynamics. The streamflow tracer variability during winter baseflow conditions was small, and the glacier melt tracer variation was higher, especially at the end of the ablation period. We applied a three‐component mixing model with electrical conductivity and oxygen‐18. Hydrograph separation (groundwater, glacier melt, and rain) was performed for 6 single glacier melt‐induced days (i.e., 6 events) during the ablation period 2016 (July to September). Median fractions (±uncertainty) of groundwater, glacier melt, and rain for the events were estimated at 49±2%, 35±11%, and 16±11%, respectively. Minimum and maximum glacier melt fractions at the subdaily scale ranged between 2±5% and 76±11%, respectively. A sensitivity analysis showed that the intraseasonal glacier melt tracer variability had a marked effect on the estimated glacier melt contribution during events with large glacier melt fractions of streamflow. Intra‐daily and spatial variation of the glacier melt tracer signature played a negligible role in applying the mixing model. The results of this study (a) show the necessity to apply a multiple sampling approach in order to characterize the glacier melt end‐member and (b) reveal the importance of groundwater and rainfall–runoff dynamics in catchments with a glacial flow regime.