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Scientific Investigations Report 2008–5152

Prepared in cooperation with the National Park Service

Atmospheric Deposition and Surface-Water Chemistry in Mount Rainier and North Cascades National Parks, U.S.A., Water Years 2000 and 2005–2006

By David W. Clow and Donald H. Campbell

Abstract

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High-elevation aquatic ecosystems in Mount Rainier and North Cascades National Parks are highly sensitive to atmospheric deposition of nitrogen and sulfur. Thin, rocky soils promote fast hydrologic flushing rates during snowmelt and rain events, limiting the ability of basins to neutralize acidity and assimilate nitrogen deposited from the atmosphere. Potential effects of nitrogen and sulfur deposition include episodic or chronic acidification of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. In addition, nitrogen deposition can cause eutrophication of water bodies and changes in species composition in lakes and streams.

This report documents results of a study performed by the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the National Park Service, of the effects of atmospheric deposition of nitrogen and sulfur on surface-water chemistry in Mount Rainier and North Cascades National Parks. Inorganic nitrogen in wet deposition was highest in the vicinity of North Cascades National Park, perhaps due to emissions from human sources and activities in the Puget Sound area. Sulfur in wet deposition was highest near the Pacific coast, reflecting the influence of marine aerosols. Dry deposition generally accounted for less than 30 percent of wet plus dry inorganic nitrogen and sulfur deposition, but occult deposition (primarily fog) represents a potentially substantial unmeasured component of total deposition. Trend analyses indicate inorganic nitrogen in wet deposition was relatively stable during 1986–2005, but sulfur in wet deposition declined substantially during that time, particularly after 2001, when emissions controls were added to a large powerplant in western Washington. Surface-water sulfate concentrations at the study site nearest the powerplant showed a statistically significant decrease between 2000 and 2005–06, but there was no statistically significant change in alkalinity, indicating a delayed response in surface-water alkalinity.

See Report PDF for full abstract.

Version 1.0

Posted December 2008

For additional information contact:

Director, USGS Colorado Water Science Center
Box 25046, Mail Stop 415
Denver, CO 80225

World Wide Web: http://co.water.usgs.gov

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Suggested citation:

Clow, D.W., and Campbell, D.H., 2008, Atmospheric deposition and surface-water chemistry in Mount Rainier and North Cascades National Parks, U.S.A., water years 2000 and 2005–2006: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2008–5152, 37 p.



Contents

Abstract

Introduction

Methods

Meteorologic and Hydrologic Conditions During Study

Atmospheric Deposition of Inorganic Nitrogen and Sulfur

Surface-Water Chemistry

Synthesis of Historical Lake-Chemistry Data

Summary and Conclusions

Acknowledgments

References Cited

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