Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2011AK100B

Integrating Remote Sensing and Local Knowledge to Monitor Seasonal River Ice Dynamics

Institute: Alaska
Year Established: 2011 Start Date: 2011-03-01 End Date: 2012-02-29
Total Federal Funds: $22,290 Total Non-Federal Funds: $11,034

Principal Investigators: Knut Kielland

Abstract: This research uses scientific collaborations and knowledge exchange to gain a comprehensive understanding of hazardous river conditions facing subsistence users in rural Alaskan communities. River conditions are projected to become less predictable in interior Alaska and increased variability in river conditions (e.g. timing of break-up and freeze-up, flood magnitude and frequency, ice conditions) may have adverse impacts on many rural Alaskan residents. We propose to combine remote sensing, field studies, and local knowledge to examine the seasonal nature of river conditions from freeze-up through break-up on the Tanana River by addressing two primary research questions: 1) What physical factors influence seasonal ice dynamics on the Tanana River? 2) What is the magnitude of spatial and temporal changes in seasonal river ice dynamics (distribution, surface texture and morphology) on the Tanana River? In collaboration with local experts from three communities, we will collect field data to characterize river conditions during winter, spring break-up, and ice-free river conditions. The local experts will also provide observational data related to changes between historic and modern site conditions and the use of the river for subsistence activities. We will also use remote sensing to study modern and historic river conditions. Satellite-based Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) data will be used to study spatial and temporal changes in seasonal river ice distribution, surface texture and morphology, and possibly ice thickness between freeze-up and spring break-up. This research is of significant interest to rural residents, academics, and government agencies, because through scientific collaboration, it seeks a comprehensive understanding of physical processes that have substantial impacts in communities across Alaska. Our integrated research on hazardous river conditions brings us closer to a more thorough understanding of how global changes may impact Alaskan rivers and the rural residents that rely upon rivers for subsistence activities.