Community Research Activities to Support Mountainous Hydrology at the East River Watershed


Daniel R. Feldman* (, Kenneth Williams, Bhavna Arora, Michelle Newcomer, Eoin Brodie


Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, CA



The research supported by DOE’s ESS program through the Watershed Function SFA at the East River watershed has served as a hub and catalyst for a myriad of complementary research projects to advance the science of mountainous hydrology. Major investments from other BER programs—including ARM program’s deployment of an atmospheric observatory as part of the Surface Atmosphere Integrated Field Laboratory (SAIL) campaign and the Atmospheric System Research program’s support for science using SAIL—have enabled North America’s most comprehensive atmosphere-through-bedrock mountainous field data collection location.

Recently, the Watershed Function SFA has catalyzed field research activities to fund advanced connectivity development and novel precipitation sensing methods funded by the Advanced Scientific Computing Research program in the area, which build upon a decade-plus of ESS investments to its cohort of university investigators. Other federal investments leveraged from DOE’s investments include NOAA’s efforts to advance weather and forecasting with the deployment of additional atmospheric instrumentation with the Study of Precipitation, the Lower Atmosphere and Surface for Hydrometeorology (SPLASH) and NSF’s Sublimation of Snow (SOS) campaign and Critical Zone Collaborative Network (CZCN). Together, these far-ranging observational datasets are sensitive to dominant atmospheric, terrestrial, and subsurface processes, and their interactions that determine how mountainous watersheds retain and release water and solutes. They also provide insights into how a changing hydroclimate might impact those processes.

This poster highlights ongoing research and connections between the Watershed Function SFA, SAIL, SPLASH, SOS, CZCN, and the recent DOE workshop on “Understanding and Predictability of Integrated Mountain Hydroclimate.” Connections also span across other community activities including snowflakes measured by SAIL and snowpack measured by the Airborne Snow Observatory (ASO). Aerosols measured by SAIL impact both snow albedo and nutrients as measured by ASO and Watershed Function SFA field observations focused on connecting said processes to surface and subsurface processes and eventual riverine export. The diversity of datasets collected in the East River watershed presents opportunities for researchers and points to the need for approaches, as highlighted in the workshop report on integrated mountain hydroclimate, that close spatiotemporal observational gaps and provide critical benchmark data for up- and down-scaling approaches and ModEx workflows. With such capability, the benchmark data collected at the East River watershed can interrogate and ultimately improve atmosphere-through-bedrock process model simulations, such that those models enable the transfer of knowledge derived in the East River watershed to other mountainous watersheds in the Upper Colorado River Basin.