• Hydro-sedimentological Monitoring and Analysis for Material Sites on the Sagavanirktok River

      Toniolo, H.; Tschetter, T.; Tape, K.D.; Cristobal, J.; Youcha, E.K.; Schnabel, William; Vas, D.; Keech, J. (2016-04)
      Researchers from the Water and Environmental Research Center at the Institute of Northern Engineering, University of Alaska Fairbanks, are conducting a research project related to sediment transport conditions along the Sagavanirktok River. This report presents tasks conducted from summer 2015 to early winter 2016. Four hydrometeorological stations were installed in early July 2015 on the west bank of the river. The stations are spread out over a reach of approximately 90 miles along the Dalton Highway (from MP 405, the northernmost location, to MP 318, the southernmost location). These stations are equipped with pressure transducers and with air temperature, relative humidity, wind speed, wind direction, barometric pressure, and turbidity sensors. Cameras were installed at each station, and automatic water samplers were deployed during the open-water season. The stations have a telemetry system that allows for transmitting data in near-real time. Discharge measurements were performed three times: twice in July (early and late in the month), and once in mid-September. Measured discharges were in the order of 100 m3/s, indicating that measurements were performed during low flows. Suspended sediment concentrations ranged from 2 mg/l (nearly clear water) to 625 mg/l. The average grain size for suspended sediment from selected samples was 47.8 μm, which corresponds to silt. Vegetation was characterized at 27 plots near the stations. Measurements of basic water quality parameters, performed during winter, indicated no potential issues at the sampled locations. Dry and wet pits were excavated in the vicinity of each station. These trenches will be used to estimate average bedload sediment transport during spring breakup 2016. A change detection analysis of the period 1985–2007 along the area of interest revealed that during the present study period, the river was relatively stable.
    • Hydrological and Meteorological Observations on Seven Streams in the National Petroleum Reserve–Alaska (NPR–A)

      Vas, D.; Toniolo, H.; LaMesjerant, E.; Bailey, J. (2018-09)
      This report summarizes the hydrological and meteorological data collected from 2003 to 2017 at 7 stations in the National Petroleum Reserve–Alaska. During an 8-year period, from May 2010 to December 2017, a research team from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Water and Environmental Research Center, and personnel from the Bureau of Land Management performed 351 discharge measurements and collected and analyzed data on air temperature, rainfall, wind speed, and wind direction at stations distributed on a southwest–northeast transect from the foothills of the Brooks Range to the Arctic Ocean. In general, the air temperature data indicate an evident warming trend for the entire region. Rainfall data suggest a trend in increasing precipitation during the summer months from the coastal plain to the foothills, though there are some exceptions. The overall highest mean monthly wind speed was recorded in February; the overall lowest mean monthly wind speed varied from station to station. Wind roses indicate two main wind directions—approximately from the northeast and southwest—with winds from the northeast predominant at the northern stations and winds from the southwest predominant at the southern stations.
    • Hydrological, Sedimentological, and Meteorological Observations and Analysis on the Sagavanirktok River

      Toniolo, H.; Youcha, E.K.; Tape, K.D.; Paturi, R.; Homan, J.; Bondurant, A.; Ladines, I.; Laurio, J.; Vas, D.; Keech, J.; et al. (2017-12)
      The Dalton Highway near Deadhorse was closed twice during late March and early April 2015 because of extensive overflow from the Sagavanirktok River that flowed over the highway. That spring, researchers from the Water and Environmental Research Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) monitored the river conditions during breakup, which was characterized by unprecedented flooding that overtopped and consequently destroyed several sections of the Dalton Highway near Deadhorse. The UAF research team has monitored breakup conditions at the Sagavanirktok River since that time. Given the magnitude of the 2015 flooding, the Alyeska Pipeline Service Company started a long-term monitoring program within the river basin. In addition, the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (ADOT&PF) funded a multiyear project related to sediment transport conditions along the Sagavanirktok River. The general objectives of these projects include determining ice elevations, identifying possible water sources, establishing surface hydro-meteorological conditions prior to breakup, measuring hydro-sedimentological conditions during breakup and summer, and reviewing historical imagery of the aufeis extent. In the present report, we focus on new data and analyze it in the context of previous data. We calculated and compared ice thickness near Franklin Bluffs for 2015, 2016, and 2017, and found that, in general, ice thickness during both 2015 and 2016 was greater than in 2017 across most of the study area. Results from a stable isotope analysis indicate that winter overflow, which forms the aufeis in the river area near Franklin Bluffs, has similar isotopic characteristics to water flowing from mountain springs. End-of-winter snow surveys (in 2016/2017) within the watershed indicate that the average snow water equivalent was similar to what we observed in winter 2015/2016. Air temperatures in May 2017 were low on the Alaska North Slope, which caused a long and gradual breakup, with peak flows occurring in early June, compared with mid-May in both 2015 and 2016. Maximum discharge measured at the East Bank station, near Franklin Bluffs was 750 m3/s (26,485 ft3/s) on May 30, 2017, while the maximum measured flow was 1560 m3/s (55,090 ft3/s) at the same station on May 20, 2015. Available cumulative rainfall data indicate that 2016 was wetter than 2017. ii In September 2015, seven dry and wet pits were dug near the hydro-sedimentological monitoring stations along the Sagavanirktok River study reach. The average grain-size of the sediment of exposed gravel bars at sites located upstream of the Ivishak-Sagavanirktok confluence show relatively constant values. Grain size becomes finer downstream of the confluence. We conducted monthly topo-bathymetric surveys during the summer months of 2016 and 2017 in each pit. Sediment deposition and erosion was observed in each of the pits. Calculated sedimentation volumes in each pit show the influence of the Ivishak River in the bed sedimenttransport capacity of the Sagavanirktok River. In addition, comparison between dry and wet pit sedimentation volumes in some of the stations proves the complexity of a braided river, which is characterized by frequent channel shifting A two-dimensional hydraulic model is being implemented for a material site. The model will be used to estimate the required sediment refill time based on different river conditions.
    • Hydrology and Meteorology of the Central Alaskan Arctic: Data Collection and Analysis

      Kane, D.L.; Youcha, E.K.; Stuefer, S.L.; Myerchin-Tape, G.; Lamb, E.; Homan, J.W.; Gieck, R.E.; Schnabel, W. E.; Toniolo, H. (2014-05)
      The availability of environmental data for unpopulated areas of Alaska can best be described as sparse; however, these areas have resource development potential. The central Alaskan Arctic region north of the Brooks Range (referred to as the North Slope) is no exception in terms of both environmental data and resource potential. This area was the focus of considerable oil/gas exploration immediately following World War II. Unfortunately, very little environmental data were collected in parallel with the exploration. Soon after the oil discovery at Prudhoe Bay in November 1968, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) started collecting discharge data at three sites in the neighborhood of Prudhoe Bay and one small watershed near Barrow. However, little complementary meteorological data (like precipitation) were collected to support the streamflow observations. In 1985, through a series of funded research projects, researchers at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF), Water and Environmental Research Center (WERC), began installing meteorological stations on the North Slope in the central Alaskan Arctic. The number of stations installed ranged from 1 in 1985 to 3 in 1986, 12 in 1996, 24 in 2006, 23 in 2010, and 7 in 2014. Researchers from WERC also collected hydrological data at the following streams: Imnavait Creek (1985 to present), Upper Kuparuk River (1993 to present), Putuligayuk River (1999 to present, earlier gauged by USGS), Kadleroshilik River (2006 to 2010), Shaviovik River (2006 to 2010), No Name River (2006 to 2010), Chandler River (2009 to 2013), Anaktuvuk River (2009 to 2013), Lower Itkillik River (2012 to 2013), and Upper Itkillik River (2009 to 2013). These catchments vary in size, and runoff generation can emanate from the coastal plain, the foothills or mountains, or any combination of these locations. Snowmelt runoff in late May/early June is the most significant hydrological event of the year, except at small watersheds. For these watersheds, rain/mixed snow events in July and August have produced the floods of record. Ice jams are a major concern, especially in the larger river systems. Solid cold season precipitation is mostly uniform over the area, while warm season precipitation is greater in the mountains and foothills than on the coastal plain (roughly 3:2:1, mountains:foothills: coastal plain).The results reported here are primarily for the drainages of the Itkillik, Anaktuvuk, and Chandler River basins, where a proposed transportation corridor is being considered. Results for 2011 and before can be found in earlier reports.
    • National Petroleum Reserve – Alaska (NPR-A) Watershed Hydrology

      Toniolo, H.; Vas, D.; Lamb, E.; Prokein, P. (2014-09)
      During a five-year period, which represents the entire project span, the research team performed discharge measurements on seven gaging stations distributed on the National Petroleum Reserve- Alaska (NPR-A), an area of approximately 23 million acres that extends from the north side of the Brooks Range to the Arctic Ocean. Specifically, 225 discharge measurements were taken during that period. In addition, records of air temperature and rainfall, as well as wind speed and wind direction from stations that collected such data were analyzed. The air temperature data indicate that the entire region followed a pronounced warming trend, ending with the 2010/2011 winter, which was the warmest winter recorded at the stations. Rainfall data suggest a trend in increasing precipitation during the summer months from the coastal plain to the foothill area. Unusually dry conditions were experienced over the entire area in 2007 and in 2011. The overall highest mean wind speed was recorded in June at the two stations where wind data were available; the lowest mean wind speed was recorded in December at one station and in March at the other station. Wind roses indicate two main wind directions—roughly from the northeast and southwest—with winds from the northeast predominant.
    • Sagavanirktok River Particle Size Distributions

      Tape, Ken; Clark, Jason; Toniolo, Horacio (2017-10)
    • Sagavanirktok River Spring Breakup Observations 2015

      Toniolo, H.; Youcha, E.K.; Gieck, R.E.; Tschetter, T.; Engram, M.; Keech, J. (2015-12)
      Alaska’s economy is strongly tied to oil production, with most of the petroleum coming from the Prudhoe Bay oil fields. Deadhorse, the furthest north oil town on the Alaska North Slope, provides support to the oil industry. The Dalton Highway is the only road that connects Deadhorse with other cities in Interior Alaska. The road is heavily used to move supplies to and from the oil fields. In late March and early April 2015, the Dalton Highway near Deadhorse was affected by ice and winter overflow from the Sagavanirktok River, which caused the road’s closure two times, for a total of eleven days (four and seven days, respectively). In mid-May, the Sagavanirktok River at several reaches flooded the Dalton from approximately milepost (MP) 394 to 414 (Deadhorse). The magnitude of this event, the first recorded since the road was built in 1976, was such that the Dalton was closed for nearly three weeks. During that time, a water station and several pressure transducers were installed to track water level changes on the river. Discharge measurements were performed, and water samples were collected to estimate suspended sediment concentration. Water levels changed from approximately 1 m near MP414 to around 3 m at the East Bank station, located on the river’s east bank (about MP392). Discharge measurements ranged from nearly 400 to 1560 m3/s, with the maximum measurement roughly coinciding with the peak. Representative sediment sizes (D50) ranged from 10 to 14 microns. Suspended sediment concentrations ranged from a few mg/L (clear water in early flooding stages) to approximately 4500 mg/L. An analysis of cumulative runoff for two contiguous watersheds—the Putuligayuk and Kuparuk—indicates that 2014 was a record-breaking year in both watersheds. Additionally, an unseasonable spell of warm air temperatures was recorded during mid-February to early March. While specific conditions responsible for this unprecedented flood are difficult to pinpoint, runoff and the warm spell certainly contributed to the flood event.
    • Sagavanirktok River Spring Breakup Observations 2016

      Toniolo, H.; Tape, K.D.; Tschetter, T.; Homan, J.W.; Youcha, E.K.; Vas, D.; Gieck, R.E.; Keech, J.; Upton, G. (2016-12)
      In 2015, spring breakup on the Sagavanirktok River near Deadhorse was characterized by high flows that destroyed extensive sections of the Dalton Highway, closing the road for nearly 3 weeks. This unprecedented flood also damaged infrastructure that supports the trans-Alaska pipeline, though the pipeline itself was not damaged. The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (ADOT&PF) and the Alyeska Pipeline Service Company made emergency repairs to their respective infrastructure. In December 2015, aufeis accumulation was observed by ADOT&PF personnel. In January 2016, a research team with the University of Alaska Fairbanks began monitoring and researching the aufeis and local hydroclimatology. Project objectives included determining ice elevations, identifying possible water sources, establishing surface meteorological conditions prior to breakup, measuring hydrosedimentological conditions (discharge, water level, and suspended sediment concentration) during breakup, and reviewing historical imagery of the aufeis feature. Ice surface elevations were surveyed with Global Positioning System (GPS) techniques in late February and again in mid-April, and measureable volume changes were calculated. However, river ice thickness obtained from boreholes near Milepost 394 (MP394) in late February and mid-April revealed no significant changes. It appears that flood mitigation efforts by ADOT&PF in the area contributed to limited vertical growth in ice at the boreholes. End-of-winter snow surveys throughout the watershed indicate normal or below normal snow water equivalents (SWE 10 cm). An imagery analysis of the lower Sagavanirktok aufeis from late winter for the past 17 years shows the presence of ice historically at the MP393–MP396 area. Water levels and discharge were relatively low in 2016 compared with 2015. The mild breakup in 2016 seems to have been due to temperatures dropping below freezing after the flow began. Spring 2015 was characterized by warm temperatures throughout the basin during breakup, which produced the high flows that destroyed sections of the Dalton Highway. A comparison of water levels at the East Bank Station during 2015 and 2016 indicates that the 2015 maximum water level was approximately 1 m above the 2016 maximum water level. ii Maximum measured discharge in 2016 was approximately half of that measured in 2015 in the lower Sagavanirktok River. Representative suspended sediment sizes (D50) ranged from 20 to 50 microns (medium to coarse silt). An objective of this study was to determine the composition and possible sources of water in the aufeis at the lower Sagavanirktok River. During the winter months and prior to breakup in 2016, overflow water was collected, primarily near the location of the aufeis, but also at upriver locations. Simultaneously possible contributing water sources were sampled between January and July 2016, including snow, glacial meltwater, and river water. Geochemical analyses were performed on all samples. It was found that the overflow water which forms the lower Sagavanirktok aufeis is most similar (R2 = 0.997) to the water that forms the aufeis at the Sagavanirktok River headwaters (Ivishak River), thought to be fed by relatively consistent groundwater sources.
    • Snow Survey Results for the Central Alaskan Arctic, Arctic Circle to Arctic Ocean: Spring 2013

      Stuefer, Sveta; Homan, Joel; Gieck, Robert; Youcha, Emily (2014-02)
      Many remote areas of Alaska lack meteorological data; this is especially true for solid precipitation. Researchers at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Water and Environmental Research Center have been collecting end-of-winter snow cover observations (depth, density, snow water equivalent and ablation) since the year 2000. These observations do not document the total snowfall during the winter, but provide quantitative estimate of cold season precipitation on the ground at winter’s end after sublimation and redistribution by wind. This report provides summary of snow cover data collected during cold season of 2012–2013. There are two main areas of study. One includes drainage areas of the western Sagavanirktok, Kuparuk, Itkillik, Anaktuvuk and Chandler Rivers located north of the continental divide in the Brooks Range. While the number of sites has varied each year, we visited 76 sites in April of 2013 on the North Slope of Alaska. Second study area was established in 2012 in the drainage areas of the Kogoluktuk, Mauneluk, Reed, Alatna, and Koyukuk Rivers south of the Brooks Range. Fifty seven new snow survey sites were visited south of the Brooks Range in April 2013. The cold season of 2012-2013 experienced heavy snowfalls (record amounts since 2000) north of the Brooks Range. This was the first year of data collection south of the Brooks Range, thus no comparison can be made. SWE averaged over entire study area was 13.1 cm in 2013, ranging from 1.2 cm to 35.2 cm. Generally, higher SWEs were found in the western portion of the study area. Ablation was later than normal in spring 2013. Ablation window extended from May 8, 2013 in the far south of the study area to middle June at higher elevations on the north side of the Brooks Range.
    • Using Snow Fences to Augment Fresh Water Supplies in Shallow Arctic Lakes

      Stuefer, Svetlana L. (2013-09)
      This project was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) to address environmental research questions specifically related to Alaska’s oil and gas natural resources development. The focus of this project was on the environmental issues associated with allocation of water resources for construction of ice roads and ice pads. Earlier NETL projects showed that oil and gas exploration activities in the U.S. Arctic require large amounts of water for ice road and ice pad construction. Traditionally, lakes have been the source of freshwater for this purpose. The distinctive hydrological regime of northern lakes, caused by the presence of ice cover and permafrost, exerts influence on lake water availability in winter. Lakes are covered with ice from October to June, and there is often no water recharge of lakes until snowmelt in early June. After snowmelt, water volumes in the lakes decrease throughout the summer, when water loss due to evaporation is considerably greater than water gained from rainfall. This balance switches in August, when air temperature drops, evaporation decreases, and rain (or snow) is more likely to occur. Some of the summer surface storage deficit in the active layer and surface water bodies (lakes, ponds, wetlands) is recharged during this time. However, if the surface storage deficit is not replenished (for example, precipitation in the fall is low and near‐surface soils are dry), lake recharge is directly affected, and water availability for the following winter is reduced. In this study, we used snow fences to augment fresh water supplies in shallow arctic lakes despite unfavorable natural conditions. We implemented snow‐control practices to enhance snowdrift accumulation (greater snow water equivalent), which led to increased meltwater production and an extended melting season that resulted in lake recharge despite low precipitation during the years of the experiment. For three years (2009, 2010, and 2011), we selected and monitored two lakes with similar hydrological regimes. Both lakes are located 30 miles south of Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, near Franklin Bluffs. One is an experimental lake, where we installed a snow fence; the other is a control lake, where the natural regime was preserved. The general approach was to compare the hydrologic response of the lake to the snowdrift during the summers of 2010 and 2011 against the “baseline” conditions in 2009. Highlights of the project included new data on snow transport rates on the Alaska North Slope, an evaluation of the experimental lake’s hydrological response to snowdrift melt, and cost assessment of snowdrift‐generated water. High snow transport rates (0.49 kg/s/m) ensured that the snowdrift reached its equilibrium profile by winter's end. Generally, natural snowpack disappeared by the beginning of June in this area. In contrast, snow in the drift lasted through early July, supplying the experimental lake with snowmelt when water in other tundra lakes was decreasing. The experimental lake retained elevated water levels during the entire open‐water season. Comparison of lake water volumes during the experiment against the baseline year showed that, by the end of summer, the drift generated by the snow fence had increased lake water volume by at least 21–29%. We estimated water cost at 1.9 cents per gallon during the first year and 0.8 cents per gallon during the second year. This estimate depends on the cost of snow fence construction in remote arctic locations, which we assumed to be at $7.66 per square foot of snow fence frontal area. The snow fence technique was effective in augmenting the supply of lake water during summers 2010 and 2011 despite low rainfall during both summers. Snow fences are a simple, yet an effective, way to replenish tundra lakes with freshwater and increase water availability in winter. This research project was synergetic with the NETL project, “North Slope Decision Support System (NSDSS) for Water Resources Planning and Management.” The results of these projects were implemented in the NSDSS model and added to the annual water budget. This implementation allows one to account for snowdrift contributions during ice road planning with the NSDSS and assists with mitigating those risks associated with potentially unfavorable climate and hydrological conditions (that is, surface storage deficit and/or low precipitation).