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  1. Abstract

    Groundwater discharge transports dissolved constituents to the ocean, affecting coastal carbon budgets and water quality. However, the magnitude and mechanisms of groundwater exchange along rapidly transitioning Arctic coastlines are largely unknown due to limited observations. Here, using first-of-its-kind coastal Arctic groundwater timeseries data, we evaluate the magnitude and drivers of groundwater discharge to Alaska’s Beaufort Sea coast. Darcy flux calculations reveal temporally variable groundwater fluxes, ranging from −6.5 cm d−1(recharge) to 14.1 cm d−1(discharge), with fluctuations in groundwater discharge or aquifer recharge over diurnal and multiday timescales during the open-water season. The average flux during the monitoring period of 4.9 cm d−1is in line with previous estimates, but the maximum discharge exceeds previous estimates by over an order-of-magnitude. While the diurnal fluctuations are small due to the microtidal conditions, multiday variability is large and drives sustained periods of aquifer recharge and groundwater discharge. Results show that wind-driven lagoon water level changes are the dominant mechanism of fluctuations in land–sea hydraulic head gradients and, in turn, groundwater discharge. Given the microtidal conditions, low topographic relief, and limited rainfall along the Beaufort Sea coast, we identify wind as an important forcing mechanism of coastal groundwater discharge and aquifer recharge with implications for nearshore biogeochemistry. This study provides insights into groundwater flux dynamics along this coastline over time and highlights an oft overlooked discharge and circulation mechanism with implications towards refining solute export estimates to coastal Arctic waters.

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  2. Abstract

    Groundwater discharge is an important mechanism through which fresh water and associated solutes are delivered to the ocean. Permafrost environments have traditionally been considered hydrogeologically inactive, yet with accelerated climate change and permafrost thaw, groundwater flow paths are activating and opening subsurface connections to the coastal zone. While warming has the potential to increase land-sea connectivity, sea-level change has the potential to alter land-sea hydraulic gradients and enhance coastal permafrost thaw, resulting in a complex interplay that will govern future groundwater discharge dynamics along Arctic coastlines. Here, we use a recently developed permafrost hydrological model that simulates variable-density groundwater flow and salinity-dependent freeze-thaw to investigate the impacts of sea-level change and land and ocean warming on the magnitude, spatial distribution, and salinity of coastal groundwater discharge. Results project both an increase and decrease in discharge with climate change depending on the rate of warming and sea-level change. Under high warming and low sea-level rise scenarios, results show up to a 58% increase in coastal groundwater discharge by 2100 due to the formation of a supra-permafrost aquifer that enhances freshwater delivery to the coastal zone. With higher rates of sea-level rise, the increase in discharge due to warming is reduced to 21% as sea-level rise decreased land-sea hydraulic gradients. Under lower warming scenarios for which supra-permafrost groundwater flow was not established, discharge decreased by up to 26% between 1980 and 2100 for high sea-level rise scenarios and increased only 8% under low sea-level rise scenarios. Thus, regions with higher warming rates and lower rates of sea-level change (e.g. northern Nunavut, Canada) will experience a greater increase in discharge than regions with lower warming rates and higher rates of sea-level change. The magnitude, location and salinity of discharge have important implications for ecosystem function, water quality, and carbon dynamics in coastal zones.

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  4. Abstract

    This study integrated spatially distributed field observations and soil thermal models to constrain the impact of frozen ground on snowmelt partitioning and streamflow generation in an alpine catchment within the Niwot Ridge Long‐Term Ecological Research site, Colorado, USA. The study area was comprised of two contrasting hillslopes with notable differences in topography, snow depth and plant community composition. Time‐lapse electrical resistivity surveys and soil thermal models enabled extension of discrete soil moisture and temperature measurements to incorporate landscape variability at scales and depths not possible with point measurements alone. Specifically, heterogenous snowpack thickness (~0–4 m) and soil volumetric water content between hillslopes (~0.1–0.45) strongly influenced the depths of seasonal frost, and the antecedent soil moisture available to form pore ice prior to freezing. Variable frost depths and antecedent soil moisture conditions were expected to create a patchwork of differing snowmelt infiltration rates and flowpaths. However, spikes in soil temperature and volumetric water content, as well as decreases in subsurface electrical resistivity revealed snowmelt infiltration across both hillslopes that coincided with initial decreases in snow water equivalent and early increases in streamflow. Soil temperature, soil moisture and electrical resistivity data from both wet and dry hillslopes showed that initial increases in streamflow occurred prior to deep soil water flux. Temporal lags between snowmelt infiltration and deeper percolation suggested that the lateral movement of water through the unsaturated zone was an important driver of early streamflow generation. These findings provide the type of process‐based information needed to bridge gaps in scale and populate physically based cryohydrologic models to investigate subsurface hydrology and biogeochemical transport in soils that freeze seasonally.

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  5. Abstract

    Surface effects of sea‐level rise (SLR) in permafrost regions are obvious where increasingly iceless seas erode and inundate coastlines. SLR also drives saltwater intrusion, but subsurface impacts on permafrost‐bound coastlines are unseen and unclear due to limited field data and the absence of models that include salinity‐dependent groundwater flow with solute exclusion and freeze‐thaw dynamics. Here, we develop a numerical model with the aforementioned processes to investigate climate change impacts on coastal permafrost. We find that SLR drives lateral permafrost thaw due to depressed freezing temperatures from saltwater intrusion, whereas warming drives top‐down thaw. Under high SLR and low warming scenarios, thaw driven by SLR exceeds warming‐driven thaw when normalized to the influenced surface area. Results highlight an overlooked feedback mechanism between SLR and permafrost thaw with potential implications for coastal infrastructure, ocean‐aquifer interactions, and carbon mobilization.

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