The results of the study have global climate change implications because of the cascading effects of such dramatic chemical changes on freshwater, oceanic and high-latitude ecosystems, the carbon cycle and the rural communities that depend on fish and wildlife in Alaska’s iconic Yukon River Basin.
“As the climate gets warmer, the thawing permafrost not only enables the release of more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, but our study shows that it also allows much more mineral-laden and nutrient-rich water to be transported to rivers, groundwater and eventually the Arctic Ocean,” said Ryan Toohey, a researcher at the Department of the Interior’s Alaska Climate Science Center in Anchorage and lead author of the new study. “Changes to the chemistry of the Arctic Ocean could lead to changes in currents and weather patterns worldwide.”
This is the first time a Yukon River study has been able to use long-term continuous water chemistry data to document hydrological changes over such an enormous geographic area and long time span. The new study was accepted for publication in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union.
The study was led by researcher Ryan Toohey of the Department of the Interior’s Alaska Climate Science Center and published in Geophysical Research Letters. Toohey is a NWB LCC collaborator. The study was the result of a unique collaboration between the USGS, the Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council, the Pilot Station Traditional Council and the Indigenous Observation Network funded by these organizations and the Administration for Native Americans and the National Science Foundation.
Information from USGS.