• Glacier contribution to lowland streamflow: a multi-year, geochemical hydrograph separation study in sub-Arctic Alaska

      Gatesman, Tiffany A.; Trainor, Thomas P.; Liljedahl, Anna K.; Douglas, Thomas A. (2017-12)
      Glacier melt affects the geochemical composition of rivers; however, quantifying the glacier contribution to subarctic watershed-scale runoff has attracted limited attention. To estimate glacier contribution, we conducted a 6-year geochemical hydrograph separation study in a geologically heterogeneous glacierized watershed in Interior Alaska. Water samples were collected daily from Jarvis Creek during late April through September. Source waters were collected synoptically each year from rain, snow, baseflow (winter discharge), and the glacier terminus discharge. All samples were analyzed for stable water isotopes and dissolved ion concentrations. Stream surface water samples have large seasonal and inter-annual geochemical variation, however, source waters show distinct chemical signatures allowing the application of a geochemical hydrograph separation model to quantify relative source contribution to lowland streamflow. Considerable inter-annual differences within source water signatures emphasize the importance in informing the model with source waters sampled for each season. We estimated a seasonal average of 35% (20 to 44%) glacier terminus discharge contribution with a daily range of 2 (May) to 80% (September). If glacier contribution was to cease completely, stream discharge would be reduced by 48% and 22% in low and high rainfall summers, respectively. Combined with the documented shrinkage of glaciers, our findings emphasizes the need for further research on glacial wastage effect on subarctic watersheds.