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1 August 2014 Influence of Rock Glaciers on Stream Hydrology in the La Sal Mountains, Utah
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While valley glaciers have received considerable attention for their contributions to summer runoff during the past decade, the contributions of rock glaciers to summer runoff patterns have largely been ignored, especially in the western United States. This article examines summer runoff from two basins in the La Sal Mountains, Utah: the non—rock glaciated Wet Fork and rock glaciated Gold Basin. Runoff events were analyzed for volume of stormflow, stormflow duration, and peak flow duration. Four events were recorded in Wet Fork (n = 4), five events were recorded in Gold Basin (n = 5), and six events at a flume immediately adjacent to the Gold Basin rock glacier (n = 6). Wet Fork hydrographs are dominated by baseflow throughout the summer and a small proportion (0.13%–0.31%) of precipitation leaves the basin as stormflow during storms. Gold Basin hydrographs are characterized by early season snowmelt with flood peaks associated with summer storms. Runoff from the gaged rock glacier represents 15%–30% of total basin runoff and is inversely related to precipitation and directly related to rainfall intensity. Removal of rock glacier hydrographs from total basin hydrographs indicates that there is increased surface runoff from alpine drainage basins that contain rock glaciers, suggesting rock glaciers act as impervious surfaces. This short-term study in Utah suggests that alpine drainage basins with rock glaciers could have greater surface runoff and higher flood peaks than drainage basins that lack rock glaciers. While the long-term effects of rock glaciers on summer water resources is still unknown, this investigation demonstrates rock glaciers may profoundly influence hydrographs in alpine drainage basins.

© 2014 Regents of the University of Colorado
Stuart T. Geiger, J. Michael Daniels, Scott N. Miller, and Joseph W. Nicholas "Influence of Rock Glaciers on Stream Hydrology in the La Sal Mountains, Utah," Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research 46(3), (1 August 2014).
Accepted: 1 April 2014; Published: 1 August 2014

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