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Luke Telfer Thesis Proposal

October 28 @ 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm MDT

Luke Telfer

Simulating Watershed Hydrologic Response to Variations in Burn Severity Configuration

Postfire measures of burn severity are linked to changes in hydrologic properties, such as vegetation cover and soil characteristics. Burn severity manifests as a heterogeneous mosaic across the burned landscape and the spatial patterns that arise also impact postfire hydrology. Together, these changes influence watershed energy fluxes and water balance partitioning, altering the rainfall-streamflow relationship.

The effects of burn severity configuration have been explored at plot and hillslope scales. However, the watershed scale remains poorly understood due to the expensive and impractical nature of traditional field and laboratory methods. Computational hydrology provides an avenue for overcoming these limitations but most current hydrologic models either do not account for the effects of wildfire or represent a fire as a homogeneously burned area.

The proposed research will use ParFlow-CLM – a fully coupled, surface-subsurface, distributed hydrological model – to simulate the hydrology for a single watershed under a range of burn severity configuration scenarios. Burn severity landscape metrics (e.g. patchiness, hydraulic functional connectivity) are hypothesized to be significantly correlated with postfire changes to annual streamflow discharge and the timing and magnitude of peak discharge following precipitation events.

This research will demonstrate an approach to modeling heterogeneity of fire effects in computational hydrology at the watershed scale and explore questions such as: (1) What is the historical variation in burn severity configuration for the chosen watershed? and (2) What is the sensitivity of the model to changes in burn severity configuration at a spatial scale of 1 km? Additional work will be needed to further develop this method, including robust uncertainty analysis and improved parameterization of burn severity class land cover types.

Advisor: Alejandro Flores

Co-Advisors: Jen Pierce, Megan Cattau

When: October 28, 2020
Time: 3:00 PM
Where: Zoom Meeting ID: 973 0089 6586