Year of Award


Document Type

Thesis - Campus Access Only

Degree Type

Master of Science (MS)

Degree Name

Resource Conservation

Other Degree Name/Area of Focus

Forest Hydrology

Department or School/College

College of Forestry and Conservation

Committee Chair

Don Potts

Commitee Members

Jim Riddering, Marco Maneta


climate change, hydrology, snowmelt model, surface water


University of Montana


This study hypothesizes the effects of global climate change on the hydrologic regime of West-Central Montana, focusing on the North Fork of Elk Creek, a 6.6 km2 (2.6 mi²) Experimental Watershed. This is important to understand in snowmelt-dominated watersheds, as it is already well documented by current trends and future climate projections that the natural hydrologic regime is experiencing alterations. There have been shifts in the 20th century of the timing of snowmelt trending towards an earlier spring peak flows and declines in the overall snow water equivalent (Regonda et al., 2005; Mote et al., 2005; Hamlet et al., 2005). The goals for this study are to analyze for significant changes in the timing of important hydrologic events, and determine how discharge throughout the year will be altered in the Elk Creek Experimental Watershed (ECEW). To address these issues, a semi-spatial hydrologic model is employed, and run using current meteorological data and under downscaled climate-change scenarios conditions, under three relevant time periods. Snowmelt Runoff Model (SRM) is deterministic and conceptual and is used to generate streamflow in snowmelt dominated basins by the degree-day method (Martinec, 1985). Data is gathered from two SNOTEL sites located within the watershed and streamflow collected directly on the North Fork of Elk Creek. The specific metrics that will be statistically analyzed are mean summer and winter flows, and trends in peak flow and center of mass date timing (Wenger et al., 2009; Regonda et al., 2005). These results can be useful for management purposes because changes in the way water is released from the mountains affects water storage, flooding, and overall watershed resilience such that current practices may need to be accordingly adjusted.

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