Modeling Snow Dynamics and Stable Water Isotopes Across Mountain Landscapes

Rosemary W.H. Carroll, Jeffrey Deems, Matthias Sprenger, Reed Maxwell, Wendy Brown, Alexander Newman, Curtis Beutler, Kenneth H. Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


A coupled hydrologic and snowpack stable water isotope model assesses controls on isotopic inputs across a mountainous basin. Annually, the most depleted isotope conditions occur in the upper subalpine where snow accumulation is high, and rainfall is low. Snowmelt isotopic evolution over time indicates fractionation processes account for <25% snowmelt enrichment. Meltwater isotopic inputs are largely determined by controls on the amount, phase and isotopic mass of precipitation coincident with the ablation period. Effect of vapor loss from the snowpack on d-excess in snowmelt is a balance between energy and snow-availability. It is highest above treeline, and in the grass and aspen-dominated portions of the upper montane where vegetation shading is low. Deep snowpack in conifer forests limit the influence of vapor loss in the subalpine. Wet years reduce the effects of vapor loss on snowmelt across the basin, except in the lower montane where added snowfall bolsters snow-limited conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2022GL098780
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number20
StatePublished - Oct 28 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


  • Colorado
  • hydrologic model
  • isotope model
  • mountains
  • snow
  • stable water isotopes


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