Recent Trends in Freshwater Influx to the Arctic Ocean from Four Major Arctic-Draining Rivers




Ahmed, Roxanne
Prowse, Terry
Dibike, Yonas
Bonsal, Barrie
O'Neil, Hayley

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Runo from Arctic rivers constitutes a major freshwater influx to the Arctic Ocean. In these nival-dominated river systems, the majority of annual discharge is released during the spring snowmelt period. The circulation regime of the salinity-stratified Arctic Ocean is connected to global earth–ocean dynamics through thermohaline circulation; hence, variability in freshwater input from the Arctic flowing rivers has important implications for the global climate system. Daily discharge data from each of the four largest Arctic-draining river watersheds (Mackenzie, Ob, Lena and Yenisei; herein referred to as MOLY) are analyzed to identify historic changes in the magnitude and timing of freshwater input to the Arctic Ocean with emphasis on the spring freshet. Results show that the total freshwater influx to the Arctic Ocean increased by 89 km3/decade, amounting to a 14% increase during the 30-year period from 1980 to 2009. A distinct shift towards earlier melt timing is also indicated by proportional increases in fall, winter and spring discharges (by 2.5%, 1.3% and 2.5% respectively) followed by a decrease (by 5.8%) in summer discharge as a percentage of the mean annual flow. This seasonal increase in discharge and earlier pulse onset dates indicates a general shift towards a flatter, broad-based hydrograph with earlier peak discharges. The study also reveals that the increasing trend in freshwater discharge to the Arctic Ocean is not solely due to increased spring freshet discharge, but is a combination of increases in all seasons except that of the summer.



Arctic, spring freshet, hydro-climatology, streamflow, trend analysis, hydrology


Ahmed, R., Prowse, T., Dibike, Y., Bonsal, B., & O’Neil, H. (2020). Recent Trends in Freshwater Influx to the Arctic Ocean from Four Major Arctic -Draining Rivers. Water, 12(4), 1-13.