Sixty to 90 percent of the world’s water comes from mountainous watersheds, yet Earth System Models (ESMs) have been unable to predict the timing and availability of these diminishing resources. Improving the ability to forecast water supply in the American West demands an advanced understanding of the major atmospheric physical processes and land-atmosphere interactions impacting how mountainous watersheds in the Rocky Mountains produce this vital water.
The SAIL campaign is a near two-year deployment of an advanced atmospheric observatory operated by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) user facility. ARM will bring one of its mobile facilities with more than four dozen advanced instruments measuring precipitation, clouds, aerosols, winds, radiation, temperature, and humidity to the East River Watershed site near Crested Butte, Colorado. Through SAIL, atmospheric scientists will collaborate with surface and subsurface researchers investigating watershed hydro-biogeochemical processes through Berkeley Lab’s Watershed Function Scientific Focus Area project to create an atmosphere-through-bedrock integrated field laboratory at the East River.
Their observations of the above- and below-ground factors impacting hydrology at various scales across the 300km watershed will provide insights into how Upper Colorado River watersheds interact with the atmosphere to produce water, and help determine whether representations of key physical processes are sufficient for Earth System Models to project future water resources.
ARM will deploy its second ARM Mobile Facility (AMF2) to the East River Watershed. Scientific data collection will begin in September 2021 and extend through June of 2023.