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Discussion papers | Copyright
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 10 Apr 2018

Research article | 10 Apr 2018

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. A revision of the manuscript is under review for the journal Hydrology and Earth System Sciences (HESS).

Controls on spatial and temporal variability of streamflow and hydrochemistry in a glacierized catchment

Michael Engel1, Daniele Penna2, Giacomo Bertoldi3, Gianluca Vignoli4, Werner Tirler5, and Francesco Comiti1 Michael Engel et al.
  • 1Faculty of Science and Technology, Free University of Bozen-Bolzano, Piazza Università 5, 39100 Bozen-Bolzano, Italy
  • 2Department of Agricultural, Food and Forestry Systems, Via S. Bonaventura, 13, University of Fl orence, 50145 Florence, Italy
  • 3Institute for Alpine Environment, Eurac Research, Viale Druso 1, 39100 Bozen-Bolzano, Italy
  • 4CISMA S.r.l., Via Volta 13/A, 39100 Bozen-Bolzano, Italy
  • 5Eco-Research S.r.l., Via Negrelli 13, 39100 Bozen-Bolzano, Italy

Abstract. The understanding of the hydrological and hydrochemical functioning of glacierized catchments require the knowledge of the different controlling factors and their mutual interplay. For this purpose, the present study was carried out in two sub-catchments of the Sulden River catchment (130km2, Eastern Italian Alps) in 2014 and 2015, characterized by similar size but contrasting geological setting. Samples were taken at different space and time scales for analysis of stable isotopes of water, electrical conductivity, major, minor and trace elements.

At the monthly sampling scale for different spatial scales (0.05–130km2), complex spatial and temporal dynamics such as contrasting EC gradients in both sub-catchments were found. At the daily scale, for the entire Sulden catchment the relationship between discharge and electrical conductivity showed a monthly hysteretic pattern. Hydrometric and geochemical dynamics were controlled by an interplay of meteorological conditions and geological heterogeneity. After conducting a PCA analysis, the largest share of variance (36.3%) was explained by heavy metal concentrations (such as Al, V, Cr, Ni, Zn, Cd, Pb) during the melting period while the remaining variance (16.3%) resulted from the bedrock type in the upper Sulden sub-catchment (inferred from EC, Ca, K, As and Sr concentrations). Thus, high concentrations of As and Sr in rock glacier outflow may more likely result from bedrock weathering. Furthermore, nivo-meteorological indicators such as maximum daily global solar radiation, three day maximum air temperature, and 15 day snow depth differences could explain the monthly conductivity and isotopic dynamics best. The decrease of snow depth calculated for different time lengths prior to the sampling day showed best agreements with conductivity and isotopic dynamics when time lengths varied. These insights may help to better predict hydrochemical catchment responses linked to meteorological and geological controls and to guide future classifications of glacierized catchments according to their hydrochemical characteristics.

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Short summary
Hydrometric and geochemical dynamics are controlled by an interplay of meteorological conditions and geological heterogeneity. Nivo-meteorological indicators (such as global solar radiation, temperature, and decreasing snow depth) explain monthly conductivity and isotopic dynamics best. These insights are important to better understand hydrochemical responses of glacierized catchments under a changing cryosphere.
Hydrometric and geochemical dynamics are controlled by an interplay of meteorological conditions...