Abstract

Hydrologic studies in northern landscapes indicate there is a critical need to explore how arctic stream discharge patterns and water budgets may be shifting in response to climate warming. The focus of this study was to: (1) assess the pattern of runoff out of Polar Bear Pass, a low-gradient watershed (75°40′N, 98°30′W), during two contrasting spring/summer seasons: 2012 (warm, early melt) versus 2013 (cool, late melt); (2) quantify the seasonal water budgets; and (3) place these results in the context of other arctic basin studies. The end-of-winter snowpack was quantified using a terrain-based approach. A physically based snowmelt model using local weather station data provided daily melt estimates. Streamflow at the eastern outlet was estimated using the mid-section velocity approach. Snow water equivalent (SWE) was higher in 2013 while snowmelt began and ended earlier in 2012. Stream hydrographs showed a rapid rise in flow driven by meltwater from the northern part of the Pass in 2012. This was followed by a series of secondary peaks, melt contributions from the southern end. In 2013, the largest runoff peaks came from the southern sector. Runoff ratios and water budgets varied between the two years, and runoff in 2013 was similar to High Arctic watersheds in the early 1970s.

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