Providence Creek (P300) watershed is an alpine headwaters catchment located at the Southern Sierra Critical Zone Observatory (SSCZO). Evidence of groundwater-dependent vegetation and drought-induced tree mortality at P300 along with the effect of subsurface characterization on mountain ecohydrology motivates this study. A hyper resolution integrated hydrology model of this site, along with extensive instrumentation, provides an opportunity to study the effects of lateral groundwater flow on vegetation’s tolerance to drought. ParFlow-CLM is a fully integrated surface-subsurface model that is driven with reconstructed meteorology, such as the North American Land Data Assimilation System project phase 2 (NLDAS-2) dataset. However, large-scale data products mute orographic effects on climate at smaller scales. Climate variables often do not behave uniformly in highly heterogeneous mountain regions. Therefore, forcing physically-based integrated hydrologic models—especially of mountain headwaters catchments—with a large-scale data product is a major challenge. Obtaining reliable observations in complex terrain is challenging and while climate data products introduce uncertainties likewise, documented discrepancies between several data products and P300 observations suggest these data products may suffice.
To tackle these issues, a suite of simulations was run to parse out (1) the effects of climate data source (data products versus observations) and (2) the effects of climate data spatial variability. One tool for evaluating the effect of climate data on model outputs is the relationship between latent head flux (LH) and evapotranspiration (ET) partitioning with water table depth (WTD). This zone of LH sensitivity to WTD is referred to as the “critical zone.” Preliminary results suggest that these critical zone relationships are preserved despite forcing albeit significant shifts in magnitude. These results demonstrate that integrated hydrology models are sensitive to climate data thereby impacting the accuracy of hydrologic modeling of headwaters catchments used for water management and planning purposes and exploring the effects of climate change perturbations.
Collins, C.; Maxwell, R.M. (2017): Elucidating Critical Zone Process Interactions with an Integrated Hydrology Model in a Headwaters Research Catchment. H43S-07.