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Influence of topography and permafrost condition on changes in Arctic water storage

Wondolowski, Nicholas (2021) Influence of topography and permafrost condition on changes in Arctic water storage. Master's Thesis, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Widespread permafrost thaw across the Arctic can impact the global carbon budget and climate, alter the arctic ecosystem, and affect water fluxes into Arctic rivers and oceans. These effects are influenced by interactions among the hydrologic system, permafrost, climate, and topography, yet the influence of these interactions on large scale hydrologic responses to thaw remain largely unquantified. This study builds on a simple conceptual model to explore the correlation between thaw-related climatic parameters and changes in water storage (as observed by GRACE mass anomaly data) between 2002-2017, and then evaluates the influence of topography and permafrost condition on these relations. Our results, based on a multivariate linear regression (MLR) and partial correlation over an annual time scale, show that in areas of continuous permafrost, loss of water storage is more strongly correlated with increased snow depth than with increased air temperature. Correlation between snow depth and water storage weaken as permafrost coverage decreases, while the correlation between air temperature and water storage do not meaningfully change with permafrost cover. We also show that, compared to areas of partial permafrost cover, areas of continuous permafrost are associated with higher likelihood of negative correlation between snow depth and water storage, and that this likelihood also increases with hillslope-scale topographic gradient. These findings suggest that permafrost thaw in areas of continuous permafrost and high topographic gradient facilitate lateral drainage of water stores and permafrost meltwater to the riverine system, resulting in decreased local water storage over an annual time scale. In areas of flat terrain and/or partial permafrost cover these affects are less pronounced, likely due to lower gradient of the water table and/or a longer water residence time that stems from connection with sub-permafrost aquifers. These results highlight the importance of lateral subsurface and surface flows at the hillslope scale on large scale patterns of hydrologic response to permafrost thaw.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairShelef,
Committee MemberAbbott,
Committee MemberWerne,
Date: 20 January 2021
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 18 November 2020
Approval Date: 20 January 2021
Submission Date: 1 December 2020
Access Restriction: 2 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 2 years.
Number of Pages: 26
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Geology and Environmental Science
Degree: MS - Master of Science
Thesis Type: Master's Thesis
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: GRACE
Date Deposited: 20 Jan 2021 19:43
Last Modified: 20 Jan 2023 06:15


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