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Identification of seasonal streamflow regimes and streamflow drivers for daily and peak flows in Alaska

December 17, 2020

Alaska is among northern high‐latitude regions where accelerated climate change is expected to impact streamflow properties, including seasonality and primary flow drivers. Evaluating changes to streamflow, including flood characteristics, across this large and diverse environment can be improved by identifying the distribution and influence of flow drivers. Using metrics of mean monthly streamflow data from 253 streamgages, seasonal flow regimes were clustered to guide identification of seasonal‐flow drivers and form hydrologic groups for identification of peak‐flow populations. Nine seasonally distinct subclasses described variability within three classes dominated by (mostly fall) rainfall, (spring) snowmelt, and (summer) high‐elevation melt. The most glacierized basins exclusively grouped into high‐elevation melt subclasses, and less glacierized basins sometimes exhibited seasonal patterns aligned with rainfall‐ and snowmelt‐dominated regimes. Peak‐flow populations varied by subclass from dominant rainfall or dominant snowmelt to mixed rainfall‐snowmelt or mixed rainfall, snowmelt, and high‐elevation melt. Within subclasses, rainfall generated higher mean peak flows (relative to mean annual flow) than snowmelt or high‐elevation melt. Seasonal flow regimes showed clear but complex associations with basin characteristics, primarily elevation and winter temperature, and with geographic location. These dependencies provided elevation‐based analogies for changes associated with warming and insights for seasonal flow regime prediction and hydrologic region delineation. These results provide a spatially comprehensive perspective on seasonal streamflow drivers across Alaska from historical data and serve as an important historical basis for analysis.

Publication Year 2021
Title Identification of seasonal streamflow regimes and streamflow drivers for daily and peak flows in Alaska
DOI 10.1029/2020WR028425
Authors Janet H. Curran, Frances E. Biles
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Water Resources Research
Index ID 70217175
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Alaska Science Center Water