ID:04 Hydrologic and Societal Impacts of Snow and Ice Changes in Arctic and Alpine Regions

24 February 2023 | 08:30 - 10:00 (GMT+1)
24 February 2023 | 10:30 - 12:30 (GMT+1) 

Open Session - HYBRID


Room: Hörsaal 2


Session Conveners: Kabir Rasouli (The University of British Columbia, Canada); Greta Wells (University of Iceland, Iceland); Philip Marsh (Wilfred Laurier University, Canada)


Session Description

Snow and ice cover play an important role in controlling land-atmosphere interaction, influencing climate variability at regional and global scales, sustaining water resources and impacting ecological integrity. Hydrologic and geomorphic processes are rapidly changing in Arctic and alpine regions, and the frequency of geohazards such as rain on snow floods, sudden melt and thaw events, catastrophic drainage of thermokarst lakes, and glacial lake outburst floods increase in response to climate and terrestrial changes. We cordially invite researchers, scientists and practitioners to contribute to this session to investigate the links between cryospheric, hydrologic, terrestrial, and societal systems. We are particularly interested in, but not limited to, studies that can:

  • Improve our understanding of cryospheric and hydrogeomorphic processes in Arctic and alpine environments
  • Advance knowledge of hydrologic, geomorphic, and societal impacts of climate change in cryospheric regions
  • Provide sustainable and adaptive strategies to mitigate the societal impacts of snow and ice-related geohazards

This session covers a broad scope of topics and methods, including remote sensing, numerical or statistical modeling, and experimental or theoretical approaches for diagnosing or predicting changes, understanding extreme events, and providing sustainable adaptation strategies for hydrologic and geomorphic systems. We will have a group discussion at the end of the session to discuss the potential of organizing a future workshop at the 2024 ASSW meeting to develop a whitepaper on linking hydrogeomorphic changes to societal impacts in Arctic and alpine areas with intended audience of policymakers to be published in one of the mainstream journals.



Session 1: 08:30 - 10:00 GMT+1

  • unfold_more08:30 - 08:50: Waters that matter: How human-water relations are changing in high-Arctic Svalbard

    Zdenka Sokolickova1; Esteban Ramirez Hincapie1; Jasmine Zhang2; René van der Wal2,
    1University of Groningen; 2Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences


    There is scientific consensus the archipelago of Svalbard warms up faster than other parts of the planet. People who live in or regularly visit this part of the European high Arctic experience these changes in a subjective and relational manner, building up experiential knowledge. Through accounts shared during interviews and focus groups with mostly scientists, technicians and tour guides, we explore notions of water in its various forms, esp. sea ice, glaciers, snow, but also rivers, water in tundra and weather phenomena including rain. We focus on waters' agencies, such as disappearing, melting, swelling, wettening, freezing, eroding, appearing and threatenting, and discuss what the observed and experienced changes mean for human-water relations in Svalbard. While some waterscapes are perceived as diminishing, e.g. sea ice, snow cover and glaciers, other phenomena (such as new lakes and other topographic modifications, avalanches, heavy river flows, ice-covered tundra and early warm spells) emerged. Changes in both directions impact life and work in Svalbard, and transform how people relate to the place, e.g. how they move in the terrain (mobility for both life and work) and how the discourse of safety develops within a less stable and less predictable environment. Increasing difficulties people experience when trying to foresee and plan their activities speak for supporting monitoring programmes. Yet scientific knowledge cannot substitute experiential knowledge; they feed into each other. While observing trends is hard, people have no doubts about striking differences between years. Both aspects of knowing and understanding the place amidst environmental change have value for those who live, work or travel on Svalbard.

  • unfold_more08:50 - 09:10: The impact of avalanches on recreational and industrial infrastructure in the Khibiny Mountains

    Elizaveta Zhukova; Alla Turchaninova; Marina Vikulina


    A large part of the Khibiny Mountains located in the Arctic zone of Russia is related to the high snow avalanche activity. Snow avalanches in the Khibiny have repeatedly caused loss of life and destruction of infrastructure. Avalanches there threaten both recreation and mining infrastructure which are developing in the neighboring territory. The location in the Arctic and therefore long-term stable snow cover makes the Khibiny tourist cluster one of the most attractive in Russia due to the climate change. Ski resorts "Big Wood" and "Kukisvumchorr" located on the slopes of Aikuaivenchorr and Kukis mountains, refer to the high avalanche hazard area. Rapidly developing touristic infrastructure and the increase of industrial development in hazardous areas may lead to catastrophic avalanches. Historical snow and avalanches dataset analysis as well as numerical modeling of avalanches and calculation of their dynamic parameters based on the ArcticDEM made possible large scale avalanche hazard zoning of both industrial and recreational clusters of Kirovsk and neighboring areas. Their specific was taken into the account for the sustainable land use development of the region. The experience from the Khibiny Mountains should be considered in the future development of other avalanche hazard regions in the Russian Arctic.

  • unfold_more09:10 - 09:30: Simulating hydrology and tracer dynamics in a subglacial environment underneath the Greenland ice sheet

    Ankit Pramanik1; Sandra Arndt1; Mauro Werder2; Frank Pattyn1,
    1Université Libre de Bruxelles; 2ETH Zurich


    The rapid migration of melt towards upstream areas of Greenland ice sheet is expected to incur major changes in hydrological behaviour of the ice-sheet and outlet glaciers along with changes in export fluxes of carbon, methane, and other nutrient fluxes, which, in turn, will further affect the downstream ecosystem of rivers, fjords and oceans. Subglacial environments are emerging as ecological hotspots, urging detailed understanding of interaction between subglacial-hydrology and biogeochemistry. Here, we developed a novel process-based model to investigate the interplay between subglacial-hydrology and (passive and active) tracer dynamics underneath the rapidly changing Greenland ice sheet on seasonal, inter-annual and climate warming relevant timescales. We set up the subglacial-hydrology model GlaDS (Glacier Drainage System model) to simulate seasonal and interannual evolution of distributed and channelized subglacial water flow for Leverett glacier (Southwest Greenland). We then use the GlaDS results to inform a reaction-transport model (RTM) of Leverett’s subglacial system following the GlaDS set-up. The RTM is run to conduct a series of idealized tracer experiments with the aim of disentangling the transport and reaction controls on subglacial tracer distribution and outflow. Results show that the tracer transport is primarily controlled by subglacial drainage system efficiency, which is regulated by discharge magnitude, topography and moulin locations. The spatial and temporal variation in tracer concentration is further dependent on hydrological interaction between different subglacial components (cavities and channels), location and type of branching of channels, and bed properties.

  • unfold_more09:30 - 10:00: Novel indices to assess variations in extreme river flows in cold climate regions - Keynote Presentation

    Ali Torabi Haghighi1; Alireza Gohari2; Kabir Rasouli3,
    1University of Oulu; 2Isfahan University of Technology; 3University of British Columbia


    Rivers in cold climates are known as one of the most affected hydrological systems by climate change. They play a crucial role in the sustainability of socio-ecological systems. However, numerous studies on the temporal and spatial variations of streamflow characteristics have been done, and a comprehensive study on the hydrologic extremes variation is becoming increasingly important. This study evaluated the long-run changes in hydrologic extremes' frequency, magnitude, and timing in 10 major Finnish Rivers. We applied four new hydrologic extreme indices for summer-winter low flow ratio, spring-summer high flow ratio, time-to-peak index, and increasing rate index during the snowmelt period to analyze the spatiotemporal variations of extreme streamflow from 1911 to 2020. Southern Finland has experienced higher variations in extreme hydrology, and a new low-flow regime was detected for southern rivers. It is characterized by frequent annual minimum flow in summer instead of winter. Moreover, the annual maximum flow before/after spring dictated a new high-flow regime characterized by frequent double peak flows in this region.


Session 2: 10:30 - 12:30 GMT+1

  • unfold_more10:30 - 11:00: Channelization of an Arid Permafrost Landscape: Observations and Synthesis - Keynote Presentation

    Shawn Chartrand1
    1Simon Fraser University


    Arctic landscapes are undergoing rapid environmental change due to a warming climate marked by accelerating seasonal variability and amplifications of summertime warming. Examples includes larger mass failures due to retrogressive thaw slumps, and channelization of valleys and hillslopes that were recently covered by ice. Expansion of existing channel networks and gullies has previously been attributed to thermal erosion of permafrost, which leads to tunneling, subsequent ground collapse and channel head advancement. Here, we examine channelization at the drainage basin scale, using a ground-based high resolution 3D LiDAR survey, combined with historical aerial imagery of Muskox Valley located on the east side of Axel Heiberg Island, Qikiqtani Region, NU, the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. A synthesis of the data we collected and available aerial imagery suggests thermal erosion processes are insufficient to explain channelization in Muskox Valley. Specifically, LiDAR and aerial imagery indicate that channelization is discontinuous along the valley floor and consists of alternating channelized reaches and wetland type environments. Channelized reaches represent locations of net land erosion, whereas wetland environments represent locations of net deposition. A striking character of the channelized reaches is flow path direction control by inter-connected troughs of ice-wedge polygon fields. We infer that mechanical erosion and fluvial sediment transport by seasonal surface flows and lake outburst floods along pre-existing ground surface weaknesses are important contributing mechanisms. In this talk we will review these outcomes and synthesize broader feedbacks important to channel initiation in cold regions.

  • unfold_more11:00 - 11:20: Rapid Retreat of an Arctic Glacier and Warm Proglacial Lake Temperatures

    Adrian Dye1; Robert Bryant2; David Rippin3; Fran Falcini3; Joe Mallalieu4,
    1Teesside University; 2University of Sheffield; 3University of York; 4Manchester Metropolitan University


    Studies in mountainous regions have shown that glaciers terminating in proglacial lakes have an accelerated mass loss via thermal and mechanical processes. There are limited studies into the thermal regimes of Arctic proglacial lakes, despite reported warming trends of 0.08 in lakes across Northern Europe (Hook and Schneider, 2010) and future projected increases in air temperature (IPCC, 2021). Previous melt models for lacustrine terminating glaciers have been compromised by a lack of data from the hazardous water to ice contact point and assume a uniform temperature . We address this previous limitation here and present a surface change record from SfM analysis of time lapse imagery and sonar analysis to determine subaqueous geometry and melt rates (Mallalieu et al., 2017). We present proglacial lake temperatures from 2017, 2019 and 2022 (combined with ASTER thermal imagery analysis) and a calving mechanism record. Using in situ and spatial surveys, we recorded proglacial lake thermal regime. Water temperatures of ~4 oC were recorded directly at the ice front during the 2019 melt season. Time lapse imagery was used to analyse terminus geometry change in all field seasons, where 10,523m of ice (0.67% of area in RGI, 2008) was rapidly lost between 2014 to 2018. We argue that summertime warming of the proglacial lake (particularly after heatwaves) has elevated water temperatures and combined with ice proximal lake conditions (factors driving circulation) increased subaqueous melt of the glacier front. Advances in this research are particularly pertinent given reported warming trends of 0.08 in lakes across Northern Europe (Hook and Schneider, 2010) and future projected increases in air temperature (IPCC, 2021).

  • unfold_more11:20 - 11:40: Ice cover and water dynamics of large Eurasian lakes - insights from satellite remote sensing and field observations

    Alexei V. Kouraev, Elena A. Zakharova, Andrey G. Kostianoy, Mikhail N. Shimaraev, Evgeny A. Petrov, Nicholas M.J. Hall, Frédérique Rémy, Roman E. Zdorovennov, Andrey Ya. Suknev,


    Large Eurasian lakes are an integrator of climate processes at the regional scale and a good indicator of climate changes. Variability of ice and snow regime is important for their physical, chemical and biological properties, and for human activity. We present studies of ice and snow cover and water dynamics for the lakes Baikal, Ladoga, Onega, Teletskoye (Russia) and Hovsgol (Mongolia). Simultaneous active and passive satellite microwave radar altimetry observations help to develop an ice discrimination approach and to study development of ice conditions.

    We also address the formation of giant ice rings in lakes Baikal, Hovsgol and Teletskoye. Multi-mission satellite observations makes it possible to monitor ice cover evolution with high spatial and temporal resolution. We have used satellite imagery in the visible, near-, shortwave and thermal infrared (MODIS Terra/Aqua, Sentinel-2, Landsat-8, PlanetScope), complemented by active microwave observations (Sentinel-1 SAR, Jason-3 radar altimeter). Better understanding of eddy dynamics and continued monitoring help to ensure safety for people travelling or working on the ice. There is a need for timely communication of results for non-scientific audience - fishermen, tourism agencies, tourists, journalists and local administration.

  • unfold_more11:40 - 12:00: Flooding and human health in mountain Asia

    Elena Grigorieva


    The mountainous regions of Asia suffer to a large extent from floods of various origins, and in particular from floods caused by the discharge of glacial lakes. The current study highlights the health problems faced by local residents in the event of extreme flood situations. The literature review contains information about floods in the study area as extreme hydrological phenomena and their impact on the health and well-being of the population. Although most dangerous weather events cannot be completely avoided, many health effects are potentially preventable. Recommended measures are being considered, which may include early warning systems and measures to ensure public health preparedness and response to them, the creation of climate-resilient health systems and other management structures.

  • unfold_more12:00 - 12:20: Features of changes in the ice cover in the seas of the Russian Arctic

    Anastasiia Mishchenko


    The Arctic seas are characterized by the presence of a well-defined seasonal course. This is due to the complete freezing in the autumn-winter period of the waters of all seas except the Barents Sea. From November to May, the waters of the Russian Arctic seas are almost completely covered with ice. In June, the purification of the waters of the seas begins, which is observed until October. The water area of the Karsky, Laptev, East-Siberian and Chukotka rivers is completely covered with ice in winter. In the summer, the waters of the seas are cleaned and the ice cover decreases, which in each of the seas begins at different times and occurs with different intensity. There are several periods in the summer reduction of the ice cover: the initial period of slow reduction of the ice cover, the period of intensive reduction of the ice cover and the period of the end of the destruction of the ice cover and reduction of the ice cover. In the marginal Arctic seas – the Kara and Chukchi – the decrease in the area of the ice cover begins earlier and occurs more intensively than in the central Arctic seas – Laptev and East-Siberian. In the Laptev Sea, the summer decrease in ice cover is of the following nature. The initial period of a slight reduction in ice cover is longer (than in the Kara) and stretches for the whole of June and the first half of July. From the second half of July to the beginning of September, there is an intensive reduction in ice cover. In September, the reduction of ice cover stops, and on average up to 30% of residual ice remains in the sea. Even in years with extremely high efficiency, about half of the sea area is cleared of ice. In years with extremely low ice cover, the sea area can be completely cleared at the end of July.

  • unfold_more12:20 - 12:30: Concluding remarks - chance to introduce poster authors