Glacial meltwater input to the Alaska Coastal Current: Evidence from oxygen isotope measurements


  • George W. Kipphut


Results of a study of the oxygen isotopic composition of coastal, pelagic, and fresh waters from the northern Gulf of Alaska region are presented. This study was undertaken to investigate whether isotopic tracers could be of use in determining the important freshwater inputs to the Alaska Coastal Current (ACC) and whether they could confirm the presence of the ACC in coastal waters west of Kodiak Island. The Alaska Coastal Current, the major coastal circulation feature of the northern Gulf of Alaska, can be distinguished from oceanic waters on the basis of its lower salinity at least as far west as Kodiak Island. This study adds significantly to the small amount of oxygen isotopic information available for the waters of this region. The isotopic results suggest that in late summer, glacial meltwater may provide a substantial portion of the total freshwater runoff into the ACC, and that the ACC does extend as far to the west as Unimak Pass.