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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Flow and Transport of Inorganic Chemicals in Snow and Seasonally Frozen Soils

item Baker, John
item Sharratt, Brenton

Submitted to: Meeting Abstract
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: September 4, 1998
Publication Date: N/A

Technical Abstract: Approximately 47% of the earth's northern hemisphere landmass is covered with snow annually. As the seasonal melting of the snowpack contributes significantly to the total annual water balance for the northern hemisphere, the fate of contaminants stored in the snowpack is of serious concern. Field research during the last three decades has led to an increased understanding of snowmelt processes and the associated processes of contaminant transport in snowpacks. Instead of liquid water flow being rather uniform within a snowpack, the liquid water flow is now recognized to be preferential in character, being controlled by ice layers and vertical finger flow structures formed during intermediate freeze/thaw cycles. Current estimates of contaminant transport during snowmelt indicate that about 80% of contaminant load is released during the first 20% of the snowmelt generated. This quick release of contaminants can be attributed to the preferential flow character of the snowmelt process. Not all of the meltwater has to be discharged to surface water streams, but with specific conditions, portions of the meltwater infiltrate into underlying soil. Therefore, the fate of transported contaminants is quite uncertain. Knowledge about the fate of contaminates in snow is being studied by the use of tracers to characterize flow and transport processes in the snow and soil media.

Last Modified: 4/19/2015
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