Dr. Chris Lowry Guest Lecture

DateJanuary 17, 2020
Time3:00 - 4:00 pm
LocationBaylor Sciences Building, Room C.206
DescriptionGroundwater Availability in Snow Dominated Catchments of the Sierra Nevada

In a warming climate, snowmelt dominated mountain systems such as the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California have limited water storage potential. Receding glaciers and recent drought in the Sierra Nevada Mountains has resulted in reduced stream flow, restricting water availability for mountain vegetation. These geologic settings provide limited opportunities for groundwater storage due to a thin soil layer overlying expansive granitic bedrock. Yet high elevation meadows, which have formed in small depressions within the granitic bedrock, represent the only long-term storage reservoirs for water within the region. Through the use of field observations and numerical modeling this research investigates the role of meadow geometry, sediment properties, and topographic gradient to retain snowmelt derived groundwater recharge. These controlling factors affecting groundwater storage dynamics and surface-water outflows are evaluated under both current and dryer climatic conditions. Results show differential changes in seasonal storage of snowmelt and surface-water outflow under varying climate scenarios. The magnitude and timing of water storage and release is highly dependent on bedrock geometry and position within the watershed. Results show decrease of up to 20% in groundwater storage under dryer future climates resulting in a shift from long-term storage to steady release of water from these meadows. Testing of prior assumptions, such as uniform thickness, on meadow groundwater storage are shown to overestimate storage, resulting in higher volumes of water being released to streams earlier than observed in previous simulations. These results have implications for predicting water availability for downstream users as well as providing water for root water uptake of meadow vegetation under both current and future conditions.


Chris Lowry is an associate professor in the Department of Geology at the University at Buffalo. His research uses a combination of field observations and numerical modeling to quantify fluxes and storage of groundwater in the shallow subsurface (<10 m). Chris is particularly interested in using novel methods to trace the movement of water such as heat as a tracer, DIY microcontrollers and citizen science. At UB Chris teaching course in hydrogeology, hydrology, groundwater modeling, and field methods in hydrogeology.
PublisherDepartment of Geosciences
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