08 Nov 2023
 | 08 Nov 2023
Status: this preprint is open for discussion.

Overview: Cascading spatial, seasonal, and temporal effects of permafrost thaw on streamflow in changing nested Arctic catchments

Alexa Marion Hinzman, Ylva Sjöberg, Steve W. Lyon, Wouter R. Berghuijs, and Ype van der Velde

Abstract. In the Arctic, the thawing of permafrost affects how catchments store and release water. However, the effects of thawing on the hydrological response remain poorly documented. In addition, it remains unclear how the effects of a thawing landscape will propagate through nested catchments. Here we investigate 10 nested catchments within the Yukon basin (Alaska and Canada) to study how permafrost thaw impacts catchments’ streamflow seasonality and storage-discharge relationships, and how these effects cascade through the nested catchments, from headwaters to downstream. Our results indicate that upstream catchments, characterized by continuous permafrost, have stronger streamflow seasonality and that these catchments also exhibit the most nonlinear storage-discharge relationships. Larger catchments downstream sustain year-round streamflow with baseflow continuing during winter. Since the 1950s flow regimes have become increasingly seasonal in the upstream catchments, with an earlier and more abrupt freshet, whereas further downstream flow seasonality has remained stable. Across the Yukon, storage-discharge relationships for 9 out of 10 sub-catchments have become increasingly nonlinear over time, with the biggest change occurring in the largest downstream catchments. In smaller catchments, each season has distinct recession characteristics, but those seasonal differences are not apparent further downstream. Upstream catchments are strongly influenced by localized change, whereas downstream catchments receive the effects of many different localized upstream impacts, making it difficult to detect a singular cause of change. Seasonal and long-term shifts in storage-discharge relationships are typically not accounted for by hydrological models and make accurate streamflow predictions more difficult. These shifts highlight how the changing landscape of the Arctic has far-reaching hydrological consequences.  

Alexa Marion Hinzman et al.

Status: open (until 07 Jan 2024)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse

Alexa Marion Hinzman et al.

Alexa Marion Hinzman et al.


Total article views: 121 (including HTML, PDF, and XML)
HTML PDF XML Total BibTeX EndNote
78 36 7 121 3 3
  • HTML: 78
  • PDF: 36
  • XML: 7
  • Total: 121
  • BibTeX: 3
  • EndNote: 3
Views and downloads (calculated since 08 Nov 2023)
Cumulative views and downloads (calculated since 08 Nov 2023)

Viewed (geographical distribution)

Total article views: 117 (including HTML, PDF, and XML) Thereof 117 with geography defined and 0 with unknown origin.
Country # Views %
  • 1
Latest update: 06 Dec 2023
Short summary
An Arctic catchment with permafrost responds in a linear fashion: water in=water out. As permafrost thaws, 9 of 10 nested catchments become more non-linear over time. We find upstream catchments have stronger streamflow seasonality and exhibit the most nonlinear storage-discharge relationships. Downstream catchments have the greatest increases in non-linearity over time. These long-term shifts in the storage-discharge relationship are not typically seen in current hydrological models.