Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2018AK139B

Changes and trends in snowmelt hydrology in the Alaska Arctic

Institute: Alaska
Year Established: 2018 Start Date: 2018-03-01 End Date: 2019-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $25,000 Total Non-Federal Funds: $50,000

Principal Investigators: Svetlana Stuefer, Kelsey Dean

Abstract: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Report (2014) and the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (2005) project reduced snow cover days and changes to the seasonal timing of snowmelt in the next decades. Changes to snow cover are important for the state of Alaska because they directly affect timing and magnitude of snowmelt runoff and associated flooding. Snowmelt spring floods are the largest hydrologic event of the year in Arctic Alaska river systems. The use of long-term climate and streamflow data collected by the Water and Environmental Research Center (WERC) at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) and various agencies is proposed to quantify long-term trends in snowmelt and snowmelt floods in the Alaska Arctic. The common problems with quantifying trends in snow accumulation and predicting risk of snowmelt floods for northern Alaska are sparse observational network and limited historical hydrometeorological records. Utilizing data collected from available monitoring programs to analyze trends in the timing and magnitude of the snowmelt runoff and floods from the Kuparuk watershed is proposed to identify variables that can be used to predict future flooding events and understand long-term trends in snow driven runoff. Recently, central and eastern parts of the Alaska Arctic experienced catastrophic flooding along the Dalton Highway that affected communities and infrastructure on the North Slope of Alaska. At that time, the largest peak runoff on record was observed at the Upper Kuparuk River (TEON data network site), showing the initial possibility of correlation in extreme flooding events. This proposal, if funded, will support graduate student Kelsey Dean (PI on the project) in pursuing her Masters of Science degree in hydrology. This is Dean’s first semester at the UAF graduate school, and in Alaska. The research project that was supposed to support her graduate studies was defunded during the summer. The NIWR funds are requested to cover a graduate research assistantship and tuition. The proposed graduate project is synergistic to several ongoing WERC research studies in the northern Alaska, including the Terrestrial Environmental Observation Network (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) and Carbon, Water, and Energy Balance of the Arctic Landscape at Flagship Observatories in Alaska and Siberia (National Science Foundation).