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Multidecadal increases in the Yukon River Basin of chemical fluxes as indicators of changing flowpaths, groundwater, and permafrost

December 1, 2016

The Yukon River Basin, underlain by discontinuous permafrost, has experienced a warming climate over the last century that has altered air temperature, precipitation, and permafrost. We investigated a water chemistry database from 1982 to 2014 for the Yukon River and its major tributary, the Tanana River. Significant increases of Ca, Mg, and Na annual flux were found in both rivers. Additionally, SO4 and P annual flux increased in the Yukon River. No annual trends were observed for dissolved organic carbon (DOC) from 2001 to 2014. In the Yukon River, Mg and SO4 flux increased throughout the year, while some of the most positive trends for Ca, Mg, Na, SO4, and P flux occurred during the fall and winter months. Both rivers exhibited positive monthly DOC flux trends for summer (Yukon River) and winter (Tanana River). These trends suggest increased active layer expansion, weathering, and sulfide oxidation due to permafrost degradation throughout the Yukon River Basin.