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Durham University

Department of Earth Sciences

Seminars and Events

The hydrology of the Canadian Prairies

20th February 2018, 12:00 to 13:00, Arthur Holmes Building - ES230 -TR3, Dr. Andrew Ireson. Assistant Professor of Hydrology, University of Saskatchewan

The Canadian prairies are often described as the graveyard of hydrological models: standard hydrology does not apply. The prairies are cold, flat and dry, except when they're hot, hilly and wet. Streamflow is basically independent of precipitation, driven by snowmelt. Most of the land is non-contributing, meaning runoff never reaches a river, but instead fills terminal wetland ponds, which lose their water to evapotranspiration and groundwater recharge. The climate is semiarid, meaning small wet or dry climatic variations can result in devastating floods and droughts, costing billions in agricultural loses from the breadbasket of the world, and we have seen large increases in such events since 2000. My research focuses on how snowmelt is partitioned between runoff, with a tendency to fill wetland ponds and potentially cause flooding, and infiltration, which recharges soil moisture used by crops. In this talk, I will describe the general hydrology of the prairies, I will describe some of the basic concepts of cold regions hydrology, and I will discuss my research questions and end with some challenges going forward.

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