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Seasonality of solute flux and water source chemistry in a coastal glacierized watershed undergoing rapid change: Wolverine Glacier watershed, Alaska

November 1, 2021

As glaciers around the world rapidly lose mass, the tight coupling between glaciers and downstream ecosystems is resulting in widespread impacts on global hydrologic and biogeochemical cycling. However, a range of challenges make it difficult to conduct research in glacierized systems and our knowledge of seasonally changing hydrologic processes and solute sources and signatures is limited. This in turn hampers our ability to make predictions on solute composition and flux. We conducted a broad water sampling campaign in order to understand the present-day partitioning of water sources and associated solutes in Alaska’s Wolverine Glacier watershed. We established a relationship between electrical conductivity (EC) and streamflow at the watershed outlet to divide the melt season into four hydroclimatic periods. Across hydroclimatic periods, we observed a shift in off-glacier source waters from snowmelt-dominated overland and shallow subsurface flow paths to deeper groundwater flow paths. We also observed the shift from a low- to high-efficiency subglacial drainage network and the associated flushing of water stored sub-glacially with higher solute loads. We used calcium, the dominant dissolved ion, from watershed outlet samples to estimate solute fluxes for each hydroclimatic period across two melt seasons. We found between 40 and 55 percent of Ca2+ export occurred during the late season rainy period. This partitioning of the melt season coupled with a characterization of the chemical makeup and magnitude of solute export provides new insight into a rapidly changing watershed and creates a framework to quantify and predict changes to solute fluxes across a melt season.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2022
Title Seasonality of solute flux and water source chemistry in a coastal glacierized watershed undergoing rapid change: Wolverine Glacier watershed, Alaska
DOI 10.1029/2020WR028725
Authors Anna Bergstrom, Joshua C. Koch, Shad O'Neel, Emily Baker
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Water Resources Research
Series Number
Index ID 70230212
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Alaska Science Center Water