Physical controls and predictability of stream hyporheic flow evaluated with a multiscale model


Corresponding author: A. I. Packman, Northwestern University, 2145 Sheridan Road, Tech A314, Evanston, IL 60208-3109, USA. (


[1] Improved predictions of hyporheic exchange based on easily measured physical variables are needed to improve assessment of solute transport and reaction processes in watersheds. Here we compare physically based model predictions for an Indiana stream with stream tracer results interpreted using the Transient Storage Model (TSM). We parameterized the physically based, Multiscale Model (MSM) of stream-groundwater interactions with measured stream planform and discharge, stream velocity, streambed hydraulic conductivity and porosity, and topography of the streambed at distinct spatial scales (i.e., ripple, bar, and reach scales). We predicted hyporheic exchange fluxes and hyporheic residence times using the MSM. A Continuous Time Random Walk (CTRW) model was used to convert the MSM output into predictions of in stream solute transport, which we compared with field observations and TSM parameters obtained by fitting solute transport data. MSM simulations indicated that surface-subsurface exchange through smaller topographic features such as ripples was much faster than exchange through larger topographic features such as bars. However, hyporheic exchange varies nonlinearly with groundwater discharge owing to interactions between flows induced at different topographic scales. MSM simulations showed that groundwater discharge significantly decreased both the volume of water entering the subsurface and the time it spent in the subsurface. The MSM also characterized longer timescales of exchange than were observed by the tracer-injection approach. The tracer data, and corresponding TSM fits, were limited by tracer measurement sensitivity and uncertainty in estimates of background tracer concentrations. Our results indicate that rates and patterns of hyporheic exchange are strongly influenced by a continuum of surface-subsurface hydrologic interactions over a wide range of spatial and temporal scales rather than discrete processes.