High-Resolution Modeling of Freshwater Discharge and Glacier Mass Balance in the Gulf of Alaska Drainage
Thursday, 18 December 2014
A comprehensive study of the Gulf of Alaska (GOA) hydrology has been carried out in order to improve understanding of the coastal freshwater discharge (FWD) magnitude and spatial distribution, and mass changes from GOA glaciers. FWD along the coastline and surface mass balance (SMB) for all glacier surfaces in the GOA drainage were modeled using a suite of physically-based, spatially distributed weather, energy-balance snow/ice melt, and runoff-routing models at a high resolution (1-km horizontal grid; 3-h time step). SnowModel simulations of air temperature, precipitation, surface runoff, and glacier SMB were completed for the entire GOA drainage from 1979-2009. HydroFlow was used to route the SnowModel-derived runoff to the GOA coastline. Meteorological forcing was provided by the North American Regional Reanalysis (NARR) dataset. The NARR data was bias-corrected using monthly gridded climate data to more accurately reflect the strong spatial gradients in air temperature and precipitation, while retaining the temporal attributes of NARR. The most recent version of the Alaska Glacier Inventory was used to define the glacier cover for the model simulations. The modeling system was validated and calibrated in several glaciated catchments containing long-term streamflow and glacier mass balance datasets, as well as several non-glaciated catchments with only streamflow data. The overall GOA mean annual FWD volumes from HydroFlow agree well with previous estimates. Glacier SMB simulated by SnowModel from 2004-2009 produced seasonal storage changes and long term trends consistent with GRACE satellite-based estimates. Both SnowModel and GRACE data suggest a negative SMB trend which indicates that recent glacier volume loss contributes significantly to GOA FWD. The final product of this study is a 30-year record of daily streamflow at every coastal grid cell (1-km resolution) in the GOA drainage, which includes the runoff signal from glacier melt and volume loss. This information is valuable to physical oceanographers and ecologists studying marine systems in the GOA.