Shrinking alpine glaciers alter the geochemistry of sensitive mountain streams by exposing reactive freshly-weathered bedrock and releasing decades of atmospherically-deposited trace elements from glacier ice. Changes in the timing and quantity of glacial melt also affect discharge and temperature of alpine streams. To investigate the effects of glacier ice melt on the geochemistry and hydrology of proglacial streams in the arid Intermountain West, we sampled supraglacial meltwaters and proglacial streams in the Dinwoody Creek watershed in the Wind River Range, Wyoming during late summer 2015, when the contributions of glacier meltwater were highest. Supraglacial meltwater was enriched in 8 trace elements (Cd, Co, Cu, MeHg, Mn, Pb, THg, Zn) relative to proglacial meltwaters. Concentrations of major ions (Mg2+, K+, Na+, Ca2+, SO42-) and the remaining 30+ analyzed trace elements were enriched in proglacial streams relative to supraglacial meltwater. To evaluate the diurnal effects of glacial meltwater on the chemistry and hydrology of proglacial streams, we collected hourly water samples of Dinwoody Creek and deployed loggers to monitor water depth, temperature, and specific conductance (SPC) at 15-min intervals over a 1-week period. The influx of glacial meltwater between 10:00 and 20:00 diluted solute concentrations and affected the relative enrichment/depletion of highly soluble elements (major ions, alkaline earth elements), less than REEs. Stable isotopes of H and O (δD, δ18O) in Dinwoody Creek were more depleted during peak runoff (10:00 – 20:00) than base flow, reflecting contributions from isotopically depleted glacial meltwaters. Looping hysteresis patterns were observed between water depth versus DO, pH, temperature and SPC in glaciated streams. Hysteresis patterns were affected by changes in weather and varied depending on the type of stream (glaciated versus non-glaciated) and the distance to glacier toe. Combination of multiple hydrologic tracers (solute concentrations, high frequency logger data, stable isotopes) shows strong potential to improve estimates of glacial meltwater contributions to Dinwoody Creek. Our results suggest that elevated concentrations of heavy metals in glacier ice melt across the Intermountain West may negatively impact sensitive alpine streams.
College and Department
Physical and Mathematical Sciences; Geological Sciences
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
Barkdull, Natalie Shepherd, "Impacts of Glacial Meltwater on Geochemistry and Discharge of Alpine Proglacial Streams in the Wind River Range, Wyoming, USA" (2019). Theses and Dissertations. 8590.
glacier meltwater, geochemistry, diel cycle, trace metals, heavy metals, supraglacial meltwater, proglacial streams