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Detecting immediate wildfire impact on runoff in a poorly-gauged mountainous permafrost basin

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Forkel,  Matthias
Model-Data Integration, Dr. Nuno Carvalhais, Department Biogeochemical Integration, Dr. M. Reichstein, Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, Max Planck Society;
IMPRS International Max Planck Research School for Global Biogeochemical Cycles, Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry , Max Planck Society;

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Citation

Semenova, O., Lebedeva, L., Volkova, N., Korenev, I., Forkel, M., Eberle, J., et al. (2015). Detecting immediate wildfire impact on runoff in a poorly-gauged mountainous permafrost basin. Hydrological Sciences Journal, 60(7-8), 1225-1241. doi:10.1080/02626667.2014.959960.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0024-3BEE-B
Abstract
The impact of fire on daily discharges from two mountainous basins located in the permafrost region of Eastern Siberia; the Vitimkan (969 km2) and Vitim rivers (18 200 km2), affected by fire over 78% and 49% of their areas, respectively, in 2003 was investigated. The results of hydrological and meteorological data analysis suggested that the Vitimkan River basin had a rapid and profound hydrological response to wildfire in 2003 expressed through an increased summer flow of 41% (133 mm). Conversely, the larger Vitim River basin showed no significant changes in discharges after the fire. The parameters of the process-based hydrological model Hydrograph were estimated for pre-fire conditions. The results of runoff simulations conducted for continuous pre-fire periods of 1966–2002 and 1970–2002 for the Vitimkan and Vitim River basins respectively on a daily time step showed satisfactory agreement with the observed flow series of both basins. Significant underestimation of precipitation and its poor representativeness for mountainous watersheds was revealed as the main cause of observed and simulated flow discrepancies, especially for high flood events. The set of dynamic parameters was developed based on data analysis and post-fire landscape changes as derived from a literature review. The model was applied to investigate the processes in the soil column and their effect on runoff formation during the post-fire period. The new set of model parameters implied intensification of soil thaw, reduction of infiltration rate and evapotranspiration, and increase of upper subsurface flow fraction in summer flood events following the fire. According to modelling results, the post-fire thaw depth exceeded the pre-fire thaw depth by 0.4–0.7 m. Total evapotranspiration reduced by 40% in summer months, while surface flow increased almost 2.5 times during maximum flood events.