Dust transport from glacierized rivers of southern Alaska to the Gulf of Alaska: Interannual variability in magnitude and sources

Thursday, 18 December 2014
John Crusius, USGS at U Washington, Seattle, WA, United States, Andrew W Schroth, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT, United States, Robert W Campbell, Prince William Sound Science Center, Cordova, AK, United States, Joeseph Resing, Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, Seattle, WA, United States and Santiago Gasso, GESTAR/NASA, Silver Spring, MD, United States
Dust from high latitudes is underappreciated and little studied. We recently identified new sites of dust formation, and a new dust generation mechanism, from the southern AK coastline, in Crusius et al, 2011. Dust is generated each autumn from glacierized river valleys as river levels and discharge decrease following summer peak glacier melt. The most prominent such river is the Copper River, the single largest freshwater source to the Gulf of Alaska. Each autumn the exposed river floodplains contain abundant, fine glacial flour and represent a large dust source region, prior to significant snowfall. Strong katabatic winds channeled down mountain river valleys generate dust from the fine glacial flour, which is transported as much as several hundred kilometers into the ocean. This dust is an important source of Fe to the Gulf of Alaska, where phytoplankton growth is limited by available Fe (a micronutrient). Glaciers are rapidly losing mass in this region, so there is an increasing supply of fine glacial flour during the summer melt season, and possibly increased deposition of fine glacial flour in the dust source regions. We initiated continuous, year-round time-series measurements of dust concentration, and its geochemical composition, in August of 2011 on Middleton Island, AK, which lies in the path of the dust plume extending from the Copper River valley. Dust is clearly generated from other glacierized river valleys along the southern coast of AK, as well. We will discuss results from our continuous record spanning three dust seasons, which prominently shows these events each autumn, and displays substantial interannual variability. Dust appears to remain in the boundary layer, but is transported hundreds of kilometers into the ocean, into Fe-limited waters. It is also possible that some of this dust is redeposited on snow or glacier surfaces, enhancing melting. This dust source is not accounted for in typical global dust models.