Journal cover Journal topic
Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
doi:10.5194/hess-2017-7
© Author(s) 2017. This work is distributed
under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Research article
15 Feb 2017
Review status
This discussion paper is under review for the journal Hydrology and Earth System Sciences (HESS).
Hydrological connectivity from glaciers to rivers in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau: roles of suprapermafrost and subpermafrost groundwater
Rui Ma1,2, Ziyong Sun1,2, Yalu Hu1, Qixing Chang1, Shuo Wang1, Wenle Xin1, and Mengyan Ge1 1Laboratory of Basin Hydrology and Wetland Eco-restoration, China University of Geosciences, Wuhan, 430074, China
2School of Environmental Studies, China University of Geosciences, Wuhan, 430074, China
Abstract. The roles of subsurface groundwater flow in the hydrological cycle within the alpine area characterized by permafrost and/or seasonal frost are poorly known. We studied the role of permafrost in controlling groundwater flow and the hydrological connections between glaciers in high mountain and river in the low plain with hydraulic head, temperature, geochemical, and isotopic data. The study area was a catchment in the headwater region of the Heihe River in the northeastern Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. The groundwater in the high mountains mainly occurs as suprapermafrost groundwater, and in the moraine and fluvio-glacial deposits on the planation surfaces of higher hills suprapermafrost, intrapermafrost, and subpermafrost groundwater co-occur. Glacier and snow-meltwater are transported from the high mountains to the plain through stream channels, slope surfaces, and supra- and subpermafrost aquifers. Groundwater in the Quaternary aquifer under the piedmont plain is recharged by the lateral inflow from permafrost groundwaters and the infiltration of streams, and is discharged as baseflow to the stream in the north. Groundwater maintained stream flow over the cold season and significantly contributed to the stream flow during the rainy season. 3H and 14C data indicated that the age of supra- and sub-permafrost groundwater, and groundwater in Quaternary aquifer of seasonal frost zone, ranges from 30–60 years. Two proposed mechanisms contribute to seasonal variation of the aquifer water-conduction capacity: (1) surface drainage through the stream channel during the high-flow period, and (2) subsurface drainage to an artesian aquifer confined by stream icing and seasonal frost during the cold season.

Citation: Ma, R., Sun, Z., Hu, Y., Chang, Q., Wang, S., Xin, W., and Ge, M.: Hydrological connectivity from glaciers to rivers in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau: roles of suprapermafrost and subpermafrost groundwater, Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci. Discuss., doi:10.5194/hess-2017-7, in review, 2017.
Rui Ma et al.
Rui Ma et al.
Rui Ma et al.

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Short summary
The role of permafrost/seasonal frost in groundwater flow systems is important in the hydrological cycles of cold regions and poorly known. We investigated the role of permafrost in controlling groundwater flow and hydrological connections between glaciers and river. The recharge, flow path and discharge of permafrost groundwater at the study site were explored. We proposed two mechanisms to explain the significantly seasonal variation in interaction between groundwater and surface water.
The role of permafrost/seasonal frost in groundwater flow systems is important in the...
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