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An Optimized Snowmelt Lysimeter System for Monitoring Melt Rates and Collecting Samples for Stable Water Isotope Analysis

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Author Rücker Andrea, Zappa Massimiliano, Boss Stefan, Freyberg Jana von,
Project Snow resources and the early prediction of hydrological drought in mountainous streams
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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Journal of Hydrology and Hydromechanics
Volume (Issue) 67(1)
Page(s) 20 - 31
Title of proceedings Journal of Hydrology and Hydromechanics
DOI 10.2478/johh-2018-0007

Open Access

Type of Open Access Publisher (Gold Open Access)


AbstractThe contribution of snow meltwater to catchment streamflow can be quantified through hydrograph separation analyses for which stable water isotopes (18O, 2H) are used as environmental tracers. For this, the spatial and temporal variability of the isotopic composition of meltwater needs to be captured by the sampling method. This study compares an optimized snowmelt lysimeter system and an unheated precipitation collector with focus on their ability to capture snowmelt rates and the isotopic composition of snowmelt. The snowmelt lysimeter system consists of three individual unenclosed lysimeters at ground level with a surface of 0.14 m2 each. The unheated precipitation collector consists of a 30 cm-long, extended funnel with its orifice at 2.3 m above ground. Daily snowmelt samples were collected with both systems during two snowfall-snowmelt periods in 2016. The snowmelt lysimeter system provided more accurate measurements of natural melt rates and allowed for capturing the small-scale variability of snowmelt process at the plot scale, such as lateral meltwater flow from the surrounding snowpack. Because of the restricted volume of the extended funnel, daily melt rates from the unheated precipitation collector were up to 43% smaller compared to the snowmelt lysimeter system. Overall, both snowmelt collection methods captured the general temporal evolution of the isotopic signature in snowmelt.