Application of HydroGeoSphere to model the response to anthropogenic climate change of three-dimensional hydrological processes in the geologically, geothermally, and topographically complex Valles Caldera super volcano, New Mexico: Preliminary results

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Michael Wine and Daniel D Cadol, New Mexico Tech, Socorro, NM, United States
Anthropogenic climate change is expected to reduce streamflow in the southwestern USA due to reduction in precipitation and increases in evaporative demand. Understanding the effects of climate change in this region is particularly important for mountainous areas since these are primary sources of recharge in arid and semi-arid environments. Therefore we undertook to model effects of climate change on the hydrological processes in Valles Caldera (448 km2), located in the Jemez Mountains of northern New Mexico.

In Valles Caldera modeling the surficial, hydrogeological, and geothermal processes that influence hydrologic fluxes each present challenges. The surficial dynamics of evaporative demand and snowmelt both serve to control recharge dynamics, but are complicated by the complex topography and spatiotemporal vegetation dynamics. Complex factors affecting evaporative demand include leaf area index, temperature, albedo, and radiation affected by topographic shading; all of these factors vary in space and time. Snowmelt processes interact with evaporative demand and geology to serve as an important control on streamflow generation, but modeling the effects of spatiotemporal snow distributions on streamflow generation remains a challenge. The complexity of Valles Caldera’s geology—and its associated hydraulic properties—rivals that of its surficial hydrologic forcings. Hydrologically important geologic features that have formed in the Valles Caldera are three-dimensionally intricate and include a dense system of faults, alluvium, landslides, lake deposits, and features associated with the eruption and collapse of this super volcano. Coupling geothermally-driven convection to the hydrologic cycle in this still-active geothermal system presents yet an additional challenge in modeling Valles Caldera. Preliminary results from applying the three-dimensional distributed hydrologic finite element model HydroGeoSphere to a sub-catchment of Valles Caldera will be presented.