Glacierized headwater streams as aquifer recharge corridors, subarctic Alaska

Geophysical Research Letters
By: , and 

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Abstract

Arctic river discharge has increased in recent decades although sources and mechanisms remain debated. Abundant literature documents permafrost thaw and mountain glacier shrinkage over the past decades. Here we link glacier runoff to aquifer recharge via a losing headwater stream in subarctic Interior Alaska. Field measurements in Jarvis Creek (634 km2), a subbasin of the Tanana and Yukon Rivers, show glacier meltwater runoff as a large component (15–28%) of total annual streamflow despite low glacier cover (3%). About half of annual headwater streamflow is lost to the aquifer (38 to 56%). The estimated long-term change in glacier-derived aquifer recharge exceeds the observed increase in Tanana River base flow. Our findings suggest a linkage between glacier wastage, aquifer recharge along the headwater stream corridor, and lowland winter discharge. Accordingly, glacierized headwater streambeds may serve as major aquifer recharge zones in semiarid climates and therefore contributing to year-round base flow of lowland rivers.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Glacierized headwater streams as aquifer recharge corridors, subarctic Alaska
Series title Geophysical Research Letters
DOI 10.1002/2017GL073834
Volume 44
Issue 13
Year Published 2017
Language English
Publisher American Geophysical Union
Contributing office(s) Alaska Science Center
Description 10 p.
First page 6876
Last page 6885
Country United States
State Alaska