Downstream patterns of suspended sediment transport in a High Arctic river influenced by permafrost disturbance and recent climate change
Favaro, Elena J.
Lamoureux, Scott F.
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Spatially and temporally variable suspended sediment transport from upstream sources was investigated in the West River (unofficial name) at the Cape Bounty Arctic Watershed Observatory (CBAWO) on Melville Island, Nunavut (74°55′ N, 109°35′ W), a river with nearly a decade of hydrological and sediment transport research in the Canadian Arctic and subject to recent permafrost disturbances, such as soil skin flows on slopes, massive ground ice melt in the channel, and substantial climate change. During the 2012 season, a survey was undertaken during the nival period to identify areas of the river where the flow was isolated from the channel bed by snow and where it progressively reached the bed. During the nival period, and throughout the rest of the season, suspended sediment transport data were collected from a primary outlet station and six upstream locations to identify the sources and sinks of sediment in the various reaches of the West River. An inferred sediment budget approach was used to identify the storage and release dynamics in each reach. Nival event-scale hysteresis and seasonal diurnal hysteresis patterns for 2012 were primarily anticlockwise, suggesting that sources of sediment were not readily available for transport during peak flows but became available as discharge waned. Analysis of diurnal hysteresis relationships for the years 2004–2012 (excluding 2011) signals a shift in daily sediment-discharge hysteresis from primarily clockwise to anticlockwise following an episode of permafrost disturbance and enhanced erosion in 2007. Consistent sediment storage in the upper catchment from this disturbance is interpreted to have contributed to the shift to anticlockwise daily hysteresis. Results provide insights into the fluvial and geomorphological response to changes in sediment availability in Arctic rivers and how these changes in turn affect sediment transport in these environments.