The Intra-Annual Variability of Discharge, Sediment Load and Chemical Flux from the Monitoring: The Yukon River, Alaska


The covered-ice breakup in subarctic to arctic rivers in the early snowmelt season often gives any damage to instruments monitoring physical and chemical factors of water. The serious condition has brought few time series data during the snowmelt runoff except the river stage or discharge. In this study, the contribution of snowmelt runoff to the discharge and sediment load is quantified by monitoring water turbidity and temperature at the lowest gauging station of U. S. Geological Survey in the Yukon River, Alaska, for more than 3 years (June 2006 to September 2009). The turbidity was recorded by a self-recording turbidimeter with a sensor of infrared-ray back-scattering type, of which the window is cleaned by a wiper just before a measurement. The turbidity time series, coupled with frequent river water sampling at mid-channel, produce time series of suspended sediment (SS) concentration, particulate organic carbon (POC) concentration and particulate organic nitrogen (PON) concentration (mg?L–1) by using the high correlation (R2 = 0.747 to 0.790; P < 0.001) between the turbidity (ppm) and the SS, POC and PON concentrations. As a result, the three-year time series (5 September 2006 to 4 September 2009) indicated that the snowmelt runoff, continuing about 40 days (late April or early May to early June), occupies 14.1% - 24.8% of the annual discharge (1.94 × 1011 to 2.01 × 1011 m3), 8.7% - 22.5% of the annual sediment load (3.94 × 107 to 5.08 × 107 ton), 11.6% - 23.7% of the annual POC flux (4.05 × 105 to 4.77 × 105 ton), and 10.3% - 24.5% of the annual PON flux (2.80 × 104 to 3.44 × 104 ton). In the snowmelt season, the peak suspended sediment concentration preceded the peak discharge by a few days. This probably results from the fluvial sediment erosion in the river channels.

Share and Cite:

K. Chikita, T. Wada, I. Kudo and Y. Kim, "The Intra-Annual Variability of Discharge, Sediment Load and Chemical Flux from the Monitoring: The Yukon River, Alaska," Journal of Water Resource and Protection, Vol. 4 No. 4, 2012, pp. 173-179. doi: 10.4236/jwarp.2012.44020.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] T. P. Brabets, B. Wang and R. H. Meade, “Environmental and Hydrologic Overview of the Yukon River Basin, Alaska and Canada,” US Geological Survey Water-Re- sources Investigations Report 99-4204, 2000.
[2] T. Wada, “Sediment Load and Chemical Flux in the Subarctic Tanana River Basin, Alaska,” Ph.D. Thesis, Hokkaido University, Sapporo, 2010.
[3] T. Wada, K. A. Chikita, Y. Kim and I. Kudo, “Glacial Effects on Discharge and Sediment Load in the Subarctic Tanana River Basin, Alaska.” Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research, Vol. 43, No. 4, 2011, pp. 632-648. doi:10.1657/1938-4246-43.4.632
[4] M. B. Dyurgerov and M. F. Meier, “Glaciers and the Changing Earth System: A 2004 Snapshot,” Occasional Paper 58, Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, 2005.
[5] K. Matsuo and K. Heki, “Time-Variable Ice Loss in Asian High Mountains from Satellite Gravimetry,” Earth and Planetary Science Letters, Vol. 290, No. 1-2, 2010, pp. 30-36. doi:10.1016/j.epsl.2009.11.053
[6] V. G. Christensen, A. C. Ziegler and X. Jian, “Continuous Turbidity Monitoring and Regression Analysis to Esti- mate Total Suspended Solids and Fecal Coliform Bacteria Loads in Real Time,” Proceedings of the Seventh Federal Interagency Sedimentation Conference, Vol. 1, 2001, pp. 94-101.
[7] J. D. Milliman and R. H. Meade, “World-Wide Delivery of River Sediment to the Oceans,” Journal of Geology, Vol. 91, No. 1, 1983, pp. 1-21. doi:10.1086/628741
[8] J. D. Milliman and K. L. Farnsworth, “River Discharge to the Coastal Ocean: A Global Synthesis,” Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2011. doi:10.1017/CBO9780511781247
[9] K. A. Chikita, R. Kemnitz and R. Kumai, “Characteristics of Sediment Discharge in the Subarctic Yukon River, Alas- ka,” Catena, Vol. 48, No. 4, 2002, pp. 235-253. doi:10.1016/S0341-8162(02)00032-2
[10] Y. Kurashige, “The Mechanisms on Suspended-Sediment Supply to Rivers,” Ph.D. thesis, Hokkaido University, Sapporo, 1992.
[11] Y. Kurashige, “Model for Pulling up Fine Particles from Armour-Coated Gravel Bed in the Early Snowmelt Sea- son,” Japanese Geomorphological Union, Vol. 6, No. 4, 1985, pp. 287-302.
[12] A. A. Sundborg, “The River Klaralven. A Study of Flu- vial Processes,” Geografiska Annalar, Vol. 38, No. 3, 1956, pp. 238-316.
[13] K. A. Chikita, “Suspended Sediment Discharge from Snow- melt: Ikushunbetsu River, Hokkaido, Japan,” Journal of Hydrology, Vol. 186, No. 1-4, 1996, p. 295-313. doi:10.1016/S0022-1694(96)03021-1
[14] R. G. Striegel, M. M. Dornblaser, G. R. Aiken, K. P. Wick- land and P. A. Raymond, “Carbon Export and Cycling by the Yukon, Tanana, and Porcupine Rivers, Alaska, 2001- 2005,” Water Resources Research, Vol. 43, No. 2, 2007. doi:10.1029/2006WR005201
[15] R. Srinivasan, X. Zhang and J. Arnold, “SWAT Ungauged: Hydrological Budget and Crop Yield Predictions in the Upper Mississippi River Basin,” Transactions of the ASABE, Vol. 53, No. 5, 2010, pp. 1533-1546.
[16] G. D. Betrie, Y. A. Mohamed, A. van Griensven and R. Srinivasan, “Sediment management Modelling in the Blue Nile Basin Using SWAT Model,” Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, Vol. 15, No. 3, 2011, pp. 807-818. doi:10.5194/hess-15-807-2011

Copyright © 2023 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.