A numerical study of isotopic evolution of a seasonal snowpack and its meltwater by melting rates

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Understanding an isotopic evolution of a snowpack and its meltwater is crucial for both past and current climate and hydrological studies because the snowmelt is a substantial component of groundwater and surface runoff in temperate regions. To better understand the isotopic evolution of a snowpack, this study investigated the stable isotopic compositions of a snowpack and its melt using a physically-based one-dimensional model with different melting rates, which are dependent upon air temperature, amount of short-wave radiation that snow absorbed and aspect differences (north facing vs. south facing). The low melting rate produces a more curved and relatively larger isotopic differences between the earlier and later meltwater. On the other hand, the high melting rate yields a less curved isotopic trend and a smaller isotopic range. Low melting rate tends to make the snowpack isotopically heavier in both homogeneous and heterogeneous snowpack. Changes in melting rate at the surface were accompanied by the changes of both percolation velocity of liquid water and contact time between liquid water and snow (or ice). Therefore, the differences between isotopic values of the snowpack and meltwater decreases as the melting rate increases. Dependence of isotopic evolution of a snowpack and its meltwater on melting rate potentially important for studying snowmelt hydrology and ice cores for paleoclimate.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)503-510
Number of pages8
JournalGeosciences Journal
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS: This work was supported by the Ewha Womans University Research Grant of 2013 (1-2013-0553-001-1) and research grant for the Polar Academic Prorgam (PAP) from Korea Polar Research Institute (KOPRI). Valuable comments from two anonymous reviewers have improved the quality of this paper.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014, The Association of Korean Geoscience Societies and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg.


  • melting rate
  • snowmelt
  • snowpack
  • stable isotopes


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