An Assessment of the river ice break-up season in Canada




Von de Wall, Simon Julius

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A return-period analysis of annual peak spring break-up and open-water levels for 136 Water Survey of Canada hydrometric stations was used to classify rivers across Canada and to assess the physical controls on peak break-up water-levels. According to the peak water-level river-regime classification and subsequent analysis, 32% of rivers were classified as spring break-up dominated, characterized by low elevations and slopes and large basin sizes while 45% were open-water dominated and associated with alpine environments of high elevations and channel slopes, and smaller basin sizes. The remaining 23% of rivers were classified as a mixed regime. A spatial and temporal analysis (1969-2006) of the river ice break-up season using hydrometric variables of timing and water levels, never before assessed at the northern Canada-wide scale, revealed significant declines in break-up water levels and significant trends towards earlier and prolonged break-up in western and central Canada. The spatial and temporal influence of air temperature on break-up timing was assessed using the spring 0°C isotherm, which revealed a significant positive relationship but no spatial patterns. In the case of major ocean/atmosphere oscillations, significant negative (positive) correlations indicate that break-up occurs earlier (later) during the positive phases of the Pacific North American Pattern (El Niño Southern Oscillation) over most of western Canada. Fewer significant positive correlations show that break-up occurs later during the positive phases of the Arctic Oscillation and North Atlantic Oscillation in eastern Canada.



Cold regions hydrology, river ice break-up, flood levels, return-period analysis, river regimes, teleconnections, spring 0°C isotherm, variability