Significant stream chemistry response to temperature variations in a high-elevation mountain watershed

Wei Zhi, Kenneth H. Williams, Rosemary W.H. Carroll, Wendy Brown, Wenming Dong, Devon Kerins, Li Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


High-elevation mountain regions, central to global freshwater supply, are experiencing more rapid warming than low-elevation locations. High-elevation streams are therefore potentially critical indicators for earth system and water chemistry response to warming. Here we present concerted hydroclimatic and biogeochemical data from Coal Creek, Colorado in the central Rocky Mountains at elevations of 2700 to 3700 m, where air temperatures have increased by about 2 °C since 1980. We analyzed water chemistry every other day from 2016 to 2019. Water chemistry data indicate distinct responses of different solutes to inter-annual hydroclimatic variations. Specifically, the concentrations of solutes from rock weathering are stable inter-annually. Solutes that are active in soils, including dissolved organic carbon, vary dramatically, with double to triple peak concentrations occurring during snowmelt and in warm years. We advocate for consistent and persistent monitoring of high elevation streams to record early glimpse of earth surface response to warming.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number43
JournalCommunications Earth and Environment
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Environmental Science
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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