Coupled Soil Moisture, Soil Temperature, and Snow Dynamics in Complex Terrain of a Semi-Arid Mountainous Watershed Thesis uri icon



  • Thesis (M.S., Natural Resources) | Hydrometeorological data from opposing aspects and steep hill slopes spanning the rain-snow transition zone are lacking, but are needed to understand how climate changes may be manifested in complex terrain. To gain a better understanding of how these variables are coupled, automated sensors were installed throughout a semi-arid mountainous watershed. Results indicated measurable differences in snow cover, soil temperature, and soil moisture dynamics between opposing north- and south-facing slopes (NFS and SFS). Most notably, soil temperature differences at the same elevation on opposing hill slopes were similar in magnitude to soil temperature differences measured nearby at locations separated by 900 meters elevation. Soil water content trends revealed that the SFS reached maximum soil moisture deficit approximately one month earlier than NFS and the upper watershed region. A comparison of the results from this study was made with a conceptual model of hydrologic seasonality from a smaller semi-arid watershed and incorporated with a literature review of the effects of climate change on sagebrush ecosystems.

publication date

  • December 15, 2013