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Meltwater Characteristics of Continental Glacier, Wind River Range, Wyoming, USA

Authors: Gregory Vandeberg*, University of North Dakota, Jeffrey A VanLooy, University of North Dakota, Yanan Li, Texas State University, Anai Caparo-Bellido, University of North Dakota, Nana Yaw Owusu-Amponsah, University of North Dakota, Lance DiAngelis, University of North Dakota
Topics: Cryosphere, Water Resources and Hydrology, Environmental Science
Keywords: Water resources, glaciers, Rocky Mountains, Wyoming, Wind River
Session Type: Poster
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Snow melt and glacial meltwater are an important source of surface water throughout the world. The Wind River Range in Wyoming has the largest concentration of glaciers in the intermountain west of the U.S. and glacier meltwater has the potential to enhance local and regional stream flow, especially during late summer. Continental Glacier lies on the continental divide in the northeastern part of the Wind River Range, and within the Fitzpatrick Wilderness of the Shoshone National Forest. The purpose of this study is to assess the quality and quantity of glacial meltwater from Continental Glacier, and its impacts to Torrey Creek and the Wind River. Furthermore, this study compares changes in water quality and quantity from 2014 to 2019. Snow, ice and water samples were collected from Continental Glacier and the Torrey Creek watershed in August 2019 and analyzed for field parameters of pH, temperature, specific conductance and dissolved oxygen; and laboratory analysis of select stable isotopes, and nutrients. Stream discharge measurements were also made. Stable isotope analysis suggests that melting glacier ice accounts for about 64 percent of Continental Glacier meltwater, snow at 33 percent, and summer precipitation at about 2.5 percent. Discharge data shows that Continental Glacier meltwater accounts for almost 14 percent of flow in Torrey Creek, and almost 3 percent of the Wind River near its confluence with Torrey Creek. Nutrient concentrations were similar or lower than those measured in 2014.

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