Recent Advances in Quantifying Hydrological Processes Linking Water, Carbon, and Energy Exports into Coastal Margins Along the Arctic Land-Sea Boundary

Wednesday, 17 December 2014: 5:45 PM
Michael A Rawlins, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Amherst, MA, United States
The high northern latitudes have experienced rapid warming in recent decades with projections of larger increases likely by the end of this century. Warming permafrost and an acceleration of the arctic freshwater cycle are among the myriad interconnected changes taking place that have the potential to impact ecosystems throughout the pan-Arctic. The Arctic Ocean receives a disproportionately large amount of global freshwater runoff and as such near-shore coastal margins along the arctic land-sea boundary are strongly influenced by riverine freshwater discharge. Alterations in hydrological flows driven by a changing climate and other perturbations, therefore, are likely to impact the biology and biogeochemistry of arctic coastal margins. Advances have been made in the quantification of water, carbon, and materials transports with recent studies documenting significant changes in exports of quantities such as dissolved organic carbon from large rivers, linked in turn to changes in landscape characteristics and hydrological flow rates. Here key measured data sets, derived empirical relationships, and the resulting pan-Arctic estimates for several constituents are described for the major arctic rivers and full pan-Arctic basin. Complementary estimates from a process-based model are presented, illustrating the potential for leveraging measured data to derive more accurate flows at basin and continental scales. A series of retrospective model simulations point to an increasing influence of river-borne heat transport on ice melt in coastal margins. Case studies of large freshwater anomalies provide a framework for understanding connections between river discharge and the biology and biogeochemistry of arctic coastal margins.