The Role of Antecedent Groundwater Heads in Controlling Transient Aquifer Storage and Flood Peak Attenuation in Karst Watersheds

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karst, hydrology, groundwater, surface and groundwater interactions

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Transient storage of floodwaters in aquifers is known to attenuate peak flows in rivers and drive subsurface dissolution. Transient aquifer storage could be enhanced in watersheds overlying karst aquifers where caves facilitate surface and groundwater exchange. Few studies, however, have examined controls on, or magnitudes of, transient aquifer storage or flood peak attenuation in karstic watersheds. Here we evaluate flood peak attenuation with multiple linear regression analyses of 10 years of river and groundwater data from the Suwannee River, which flows over the karstic upper Floridan aquifer in north‐central Florida and experiences frequent flooding. Regressions show antecedent river stage exerts the dominant control on magnitudes of transient aquifer storage, with recharge and time to peak having secondary controls. Specifically, low antecedent stages result in larger magnitudes of transient aquifer storage and thus greater flood attenuation than conditions of elevated antecedent stage. These findings suggest subsurface weathering, including cave formation and enlargement, caused by transient aquifer storage could occur on a more frequent basis in aquifers where groundwater table elevation is lowered due to anthropogenic or climatic influences. Our work also shows that measures of groundwater table elevation prior to an event could be used to improve predictive flood models.

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Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, v. 44, issue 1, p. 77-87