High-resolution modeling of coastal freshwater discharge and glacier mass balance in the Gulf of Alaska watershed

A comprehensive study of the Gulf of Alaska (GOA) drainage basin was carried out to improve understanding of the coastal freshwater discharge (FWD) and glacier volume loss (GVL). Hydrologic processes during the period 1980–2014 were modeled using a suite of physically based, spatially distributed weather, energy-balance snow/ice melt, soil water balance, and runoff routing models at a high-resolution (1 km horizontal grid; daily time step). Meteorological forcing was provided by the North American Regional Reanalysis (NARR), Modern Era Retrospective Analysis for Research and Applications (MERRA), and Climate Forecast System Reanalysis (CFSR) data sets. Streamflow and glacier mass balance modeled using MERRA and CFSR compared well with observations in four watersheds used for calibration in the study domain. However, only CFSR produced regional seasonal and long-term trends in water balance that compared favorably with independent Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) and airborne altimetry data. Mean annual runoff using CFSR was 760 km3 yr−1, 8% of which was derived from the long-term removal of stored water from glaciers (glacier volume loss). The annual runoff from CFSR was partitioned into 63% snowmelt, 17% glacier ice melt, and 20% rainfall. Glacier runoff, taken as the sum of rainfall, snow, and ice melt occurring each season on glacier surfaces, was 38% of the total seasonal runoff, with the remaining runoff sourced from nonglacier surfaces. Our simulations suggests that existing GRACE solutions, previously reported to represent glacier mass balance alone, are actually measuring the full water budget of land and ice surfaces.
Beamer, J., Hill, D.F., Arendt, A., Liston, G.
Water Resources Research