Journal cover Journal topic
Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 21, 4803-4823, 2017
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-21-4803-2017
© Author(s) 2017. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Research article
27 Sep 2017
Hydrological connectivity from glaciers to rivers in the Qinghai–Tibet Plateau: roles of suprapermafrost and subpermafrost groundwater
Rui Ma1,2, Ziyong Sun1,2, Yalu Hu2, Qixin Chang2, Shuo Wang2, Wenle Xing2, and Mengyan Ge2 1Laboratory of Basin Hydrology and Wetland Eco-restoration, China University of Geosciences, Wuhan, 430074, China
2School of Environmental Studies, China University of Geosciences, Wuhan, 430074, China
Abstract. The roles of groundwater flow in the hydrological cycle within the alpine area characterized by permafrost and/or seasonal frost are poorly known. This study explored the role of permafrost in controlling groundwater flow and the hydrological connections between glaciers in high mountains and rivers in the low piedmont plain with respect to hydraulic head, temperature, geochemical and isotopic data, at a representative catchment in the headwater region of the Heihe River, northeastern Qinghai–Tibet Plateau. The results show that the groundwater in the high mountains mainly occurred as suprapermafrost groundwater, while in the moraine and fluvioglacial deposits on the planation surfaces of higher hills, suprapermafrost, intrapermafrost and subpermafrost groundwater cooccurred. Glacier and snow meltwaters were transported from the high mountains to the plain through stream channels, slope surfaces, and supra- and subpermafrost aquifers. Groundwater in the Quaternary aquifer in the piedmont plain was recharged by the lateral inflow from permafrost areas and the stream infiltration and was discharged as baseflow to the stream in the north. Groundwater maintained streamflow over the cold season and significantly contributed to the streamflow during the warm season. Two mechanisms were proposed to contribute to the seasonal variation of aquifer water-conduction capacity: (1) surface drainage through the stream channel during the warm period and (2) subsurface drainage to an artesian aquifer confined by stream icing and seasonal frost during the cold season.

Citation: Ma, R., Sun, Z., Hu, Y., Chang, Q., Wang, S., Xing, W., and Ge, M.: Hydrological connectivity from glaciers to rivers in the Qinghai–Tibet Plateau: roles of suprapermafrost and subpermafrost groundwater, Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 21, 4803-4823, https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-21-4803-2017, 2017.
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Short summary
The roles of groundwater flow in the hydrological cycle within the alpine area characterized by permafrost or seasonal frost are poorly known. We investigated the role of permafrost in controlling groundwater flow and hydrological connections between glaciers and river. The recharge, flow path and discharge of permafrost groundwater at the study site were explored. Two mechanisms were proposed to explain the significantly seasonal variation in interaction between groundwater and surface water.
The roles of groundwater flow in the hydrological cycle within the alpine area characterized by...
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