Abstract

At Yucca Mountain, NV, future changes in climatic conditions will probably alter net infiltration, drainage below the bottom of the evapotranspiration zone within the soil profile, or flow across the interface between soil and the densely welded part of the Tiva Canyon Tuff. The objectives of this study were to: (i) develop a semiempirical model and forecast average net infiltration rates, using the limited meteorological data from analog meteorological stations, for interglacial (present day), and future monsoon, glacial transition, and glacial climates over the Yucca Mountain region; and (ii) corroborate the computed net infiltration rates by comparing them with the empirically and numerically determined groundwater recharge and percolation rates through the unsaturated zone from published data. This study approached calculations of net infiltration, aridity, and precipitation-effectiveness indices using a modified Budyko's water-balance model, with reference-surface potential evapotranspiration determined from the radiation-based Penman formula. Results of calculations show that net infiltration rates are expected to generally increase from the present-day climate to monsoon climate, to glacial transition climate, and then to the glacial climate, following a power law relationship between net infiltration and precipitation. The forecasting results indicate the overlap between the ranges of net infiltration for different climates. Forecasting of net infiltration for different climate states is subject to numerous uncertainties associated with selecting climate analog sites, using relatively short analog meteorological records, neglecting the effects of vegetation and surface runoff and run-on on a local scale, as well as possible anthropogenically induced climate changes.

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