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THE IMPACT OF MELTING GLACIERS ON MOUNTAIN GROUNDWATER SYSTEMS: A MULTI-YEAR STUDY INCORPORATING ISOTOPIC TRACERS AND MICROBIOLOGY IN MOUNT HOOD NATIONAL FOREST, OREGON, AND GLACIER NATIONAL PARK, MONTANA, AND TIME SERIES ANALYSES IN THE SWISS ALPS

thesis
posted on 18.12.2021, 01:16 authored by Jordyn B MillerJordyn B Miller

Alpine glaciers around the world are in retreat and are unlikely to reverse course. This dissertation focuses on improving our understanding of the impact of glacial melt on mountainous alpine groundwater systems. Studies on glacial melt-groundwater interactions have become more prevalent, particularly in the past 5 years, because we are recognizing that the contribution of glacial melt to the hydrologic cycle is not limited to melt-season surficial streamflow. The importance of glacial melt to mountain groundwater systems has the potential to not only influence spring and streamflow generation, but also the longevity of alpine specific, and frequently endangered species, dependent on this source of recharge. This recharge may be vital for human water needs such as potable water, agriculture, and hydrothermal power.

The impact that a transition from glacial melt to snow- or rain-dominated streamflow and recharge will have on alpine ecosystems in a continually warming climate is far reaching. This dissertation: 1) tests whether glacial melt is an important source of recharge for mountain springs and their microbial communities, 2) investigates the spatial impact of glacial-melt recharge on residence times and flowpaths that support alpine springs, and 3) explores the impact of post-peak water on alpine baseflow using a statistical, timeseries approach. My results show that the groundwater systems in glaciated mountainous, alpine regions are particularly vulnerable to climate change. Springs in Mount Hood National Forest and Glacier National Park were sampled over a 4-year period, and in addition, publicly available long-term streamflow datasets were are also utilized. The chapters composing this work build upon each other, and compare and contrast the factors most important in glacial melt recharging the mountain-block. Information that is vital to the management of alpine water resources by landowners, watershed groups, scientists, and others interested in mountain groundwater systems in glaciated alpine regions is presented in the following pages.

Funding

Collaborative Research: Quantifying the contribution of alpine glacier meltwater to mountain-block recharge using microbiological markers and environmental isotopes

Directorate for Geosciences

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History

Degree Type

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences

Campus location

West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Marty D. Frisbee

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee co-chair

Nathaniel Lifton

Additional Committee Member 2

Darryl Granger

Additional Committee Member 3

Trinity Hamilton

Additional Committee Member 4

Anna Liljedahl