Simulation of Pre- and Post-Fire Streamflow in the Upper Rio Hondo Basin, NM

Science Center Objects

The 2012 Little Bear Fire burned 44,000 acres in the upper Rio Hondo Basin in south-central New Mexico. Landscape in the Basin ranges from mixed conifer forests at higher elevations (12,000 ft) to desert shrubland at lower (5,200 ft) elevations. Burned areas are at risk of substantial post-wildfire erosion and flash floods. USGS post-wildfire analysis estimated 70% of the burned area had a high probability of debris flow. USGS scientists have developed the Precipitation-Runoff Modeling System (PRMS) to simulate hydrologic responses to changes in climate, vegetation, soil, and management. This hydrologic model could be used to help us understand how watersheds respond to fire.

Upper Rio Hondo Basin Map, NM, USGS NM Water Science Center

Upper Rio Hondo Basin Map, NM, USGS NM Water Science Center

(Public domain.)

Approach:

  1. Determine the extent to which the Precipitation-Runoff Modeling System (PRMS) can accurately represent the effects of fire on watershed-scale hydrologic response.
  2. Calibrate PRMS to simulate the prefire and postfire streamflow and surface hydrologic conditions of the fire-impacted North Fork Eagle Creek subwatershed in the upper Rio Hondo Basin.
Upper Rio Hondo Basin, NM, USGS NM Water Science Center

Upper Rio Hondo Basin, NM, USGS NM Water Science Center

(Public domain.)

Objectives:

Improve understanding of the effects of fire on watershed hydrologic response by:

  • Developing a calibrated PRMS model
  • Simulating hydrologic response to landscape changes in the wildfire burn area