A circumpolar perspective on fluvial sediment flux to the Arctic ocean

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Abstract

[1] Quantification of sediment fluxes from rivers is fundamental to understanding land-ocean linkages in the Arctic. Numerous publications have focused on this subject over the past century, yet assessments of temporal trends are scarce and consensus on contemporary fluxes is lacking. Published estimates vary widely, but often provide little accessory information needed to interpret the differences. We present a pan-arctic synthesis of sediment flux from 19 arctic rivers, primarily focusing on contributions from the eight largest ones. For this synthesis, historical records and recent unpublished data were compiled from Russian, Canadian, and United States sources. Evaluation of these data revealed no long-term trends in sediment flux, but did show stepwise changes in the historical records of two of the rivers. In some cases, old values that do not reflect contemporary fluxes are still being reported, while in other cases, typographical errors have been propagated into the recent literature. Most of the discrepancy among published estimates, however, can be explained by differences in years of records examined and gauging stations used. Variations in sediment flux from year to year in arctic rivers are large, so estimates based on relatively few years can differ substantially. To determine best contemporary estimates of sediment flux for the eight largest arctic rivers, we used a combination of newly available data, historical records, and literature values. These estimates contribute to our understanding of carbon, nutrient, and contaminant transport to the Arctic Ocean and provide a baseline for detecting future anthropogenic or natural change in the Arctic.

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