DOI: 10.1029/2023jf007294 ISSN:

Arctic Tundra Lake Drainage Increases Snow Storage in Drifts

R. C. Rangel, N. Ohara, A. D. Parsekian, B. M. Jones
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Geophysics


Snowdrifts formed by wind transported snow deposition represent a vital component of the earth surface processes on Arctic tundra. Snow accumulation on steep slopes particularly at the margins of rivers, coasts, lakes, and drained lake basins (DLBs) comprise a significant water storage component for the ecosystem during spring and summer snowmelt. The tundra landscape is in constant change as lakes drain, substantially altering the surface morphology that partially controls how snow drifts and accumulates throughout the cold seasons. Here, we combine field measurements, remote sensing observations, and snow modeling to investigate how lake drainage affects snow redistribution at Inigok on the Arctic Coastal Plain of Alaska, where the snow movement is controlled by wind. Field observations included measurements of snow depth using ground penetrating radar and probe. We mapped mid‐July snow cover and modeled snow redistribution before and after drainage simulation for 33 lakes (∼30 km2) in our study area (∼140 km2). Our results show the advantage of using a wide range of snow depth measurements on frozen lakes, DLBs, and upland to validate the snow modeling in order to capture the variability inherent in the landscape. The lake drainage simulation suggests an increase in snow storage of up to ∼24% at DLBs compared to extant lakes, ∼35% considering only snowdrifts (assumed as ≥ 1 m depth), and ∼4% considering the whole study area. This increase in snow accumulation could significantly impact the landscape when it melts, including wildlife, vegetation, biogeochemical processes, and potential natural hazards like snow‐dam outburst floods.

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