Effects of asynchronous snowmelt on flushing of dissolved organic carbon: A mixing model approach

E. W. Boyer, G. M. Hornberger, K. E. Bencala, D. M. McKnight

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

105 Scopus citations


In many snowmelt-dominated catchments, stream dissolved organic carbon (DOC) levels typically increase rapidly as spring melt commences, peak before maximum discharge, and decrease quickly as melting continues. We present data from Deer Creek (Summit County, CO) that shows this distinctive flushing response of DOC during snowmelt runoff, with DOC stored in landscape soils flushed to the stream in response to infiltrating melt waters. Our prior studies show that asynchronous melting of the snowpack across the landscape causes the spring DOC flush to be initiated at different times throughout the catchment. In this study we quantify characteristics of the asynchronous melt and its effect on DOC flushing. We investigated whether a simple mixing model can be used to capture the essentials of the asynchronous melting of a seasonal snowpack and its controls on DOC transport. We divided the catchment into zones of aspect and elevation, which largely determine spatial and temporal variations in the distribution of snow. TOPMODEL was used to simulate the hydrology in each zone, and the simulated flow paths were routed through a simple DOC mixing model to predict contributions of DOC to the stream. The zonal responses were aggregated to give a predicted response of hydrology and DOC fluxes for the entire catchment. Our results indicate that asynchronous melting-which determines the timing of contributions of discharge and DOC to streamflow from different areas of the landscape-can be quantified using a simple modeling approach.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3291-3308
Number of pages18
JournalHydrological Processes
Issue number18
StatePublished - Dec 30 2000

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Water Science and Technology


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