Modelling suspended sediment discharge in a glaciated Arctic catchment–Lake Peters, Northeast Brooks Range, Alaska

Lorna Louise Thurston, Erik Schiefer, Nicholas P. McKay, Darrell S. Kaufman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Seasonal suspended sediment transfer in glaciated catchments is responsive to meteorological, geomorphological, and glacio-fluvial conditions, and thus is a useful indicator of environmental system dynamics. Knowledge of multifaceted fluvial sediment-transfer processes is limited in the Alaskan Arctic – a region sensitive to contemporary environmental change. For two glaciated sub-catchments at Lake Peters, northeast Brooks Range, Alaska, we conducted a two-year endeavour to monitor the hydrology and meteorology, and used the data to derive multiple-regression models of suspended sediment load. Statistical selection of the best models shows that incorporating meteorological or temporal explanatory variables improves performances of turbidity- and discharge-based sediment models. The resulting modelled specific suspended sediment yields to Lake Peters are: 33 (20–60) t km−2 yr−1 in 2015, and 79 (50–140) t km−2 yr−1 in 2016 (95% confidence band estimates). In contrast to previous studies in Arctic Alaska, fluvial suspended sediment transfer to Lake Peters was primarily influenced by rainfall, and secondarily influenced by temperature-driven melt processes associated with clockwise diurnal hysteresis. Despite different sub-catchment glacier coverage, specific yields were the same order of magnitude from the two primary inflows to Lake Peters, which are Carnivore Creek (128 km2; 10% glacier coverage) and Chamberlin Creek (8 km2; 23% glacier coverage). Seasonal to longer-term sediment exhaustion and/or contrasting glacier dynamics may explain the lower than expected relative specific sediment yield from the more heavily glacierized Chamberlin Creek catchment. Absolute suspended sediment yield (t yr−1) from Carnivore Creek to Lake Peters was 27 times greater than from Chamberlin Creek, which we attribute to catchment size and sediment supply differences. Our results provide a foundational understanding of the current sediment transfer regime and are useful for predicting changes in fluvial sediment transport in glaciated Alaskan Arctic catchments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3910-3927
Number of pages18
JournalHydrological Processes
Volume34
Issue number19
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 15 2020

Keywords

  • Arctic
  • fluvial
  • glacier
  • sediment exhaustion
  • sediment model
  • sediment yield
  • suspended sediment
  • turbidity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology

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