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The Sensitivity of Northern Groundwater Recharge to Climate Change: A Case Study in Northwest Alaska

Authors

  • Hannah M. Clilverd,

    1. Respectively, Research Associate (Clilverd), Director (White), Assistant Professor of Research (Tidwell), Institute of Northern Engineering, Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Alaska Fairbanks, P.O. Box 755860, Fairbanks, Alaska 99775-5860;
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  • Daniel M. White,

    1. Respectively, Research Associate (Clilverd), Director (White), Assistant Professor of Research (Tidwell), Institute of Northern Engineering, Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Alaska Fairbanks, P.O. Box 755860, Fairbanks, Alaska 99775-5860;
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  • Amy C. Tidwell,

    1. Respectively, Research Associate (Clilverd), Director (White), Assistant Professor of Research (Tidwell), Institute of Northern Engineering, Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Alaska Fairbanks, P.O. Box 755860, Fairbanks, Alaska 99775-5860;
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  • Michael A. Rawlins

    1. Lecturer and Manager (Rawlins), Climate System Research Center, Department of Geosciences, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Massachusetts, 01003-9297
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  • Paper No. JAWRA-10-0114-P of the Journal of the American Water Resources Association (JAWRA). Discussions are open until six months from print publication.

(E-Mail/White: dmwhite@alaska.edu).

Abstract

Clilverd, Hannah M., Daniel M. White, Amy C. Tidwell, and Michael A. Rawlins, 2011. The Sensitivity of Northern Groundwater Recharge to Climate Change: A Case Study in Northwest Alaska. Journal of the American Water Resources Association (JAWRA) 47(6):1228–1240. DOI: 10.1111/j.1752-1688.2011.00569.x

Abstract:  The potential impacts of climate change on northern groundwater supplies were examined at a fractured-marble mountain aquifer near Nome, Alaska. Well water surface elevations (WSE) were monitored from 2004-2009 and analyzed with local meteorological data. Future aquifer response was simulated with the Pan-Arctic Water Balance Model (PWBM) using forcings (air temperature and precipitation) derived from fifth-generation European Centre Hamburg Model (ECHAM5) global circulation model climate scenarios for extreme and modest increases in greenhouse gases. We observed changes in WSE due to the onset of spring snowmelt, low intensity and high intensity rainfall events, and aquifer head recession during the winter freeze period. Observed WSE and snow depth compared well with PWBM-simulated groundwater recharge and snow storage. Using ECHAM5-simulated increases in mean annual temperature of 4-8°C by 2099, the PWBM predicted that by 2099 later freeze-up and earlier snowmelt will decrease seasonal snow cover by one to two months. Annual evapotranspiration and precipitation are predicted to increase 27-40% (55-81 mm) and 33-42% (81-102 mm), respectively, with the proportion of snowfall in annual precipitation decreasing on average 9-25% (p < 0.05). The amount of snowmelt is not predicted to change significantly by 2099; however, a decreasing trend is evident from 2060 in the extreme ECHAM5 greenhouse gas scenario. Increases in effective precipitation were predicted to be great enough to sustain sufficient groundwater recharge.

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