Suspended sediment in a high-Arctic river: an appraisal of flux estimation methods

Pernille Ladegaard-Pedersen, Charlotte Sigsgaard, Aart Kroon, Jakob Abermann, Kirstine Skov, Bo Elberling

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Quantifying fluxes of water, sediment and dissolved compounds through Arctic rivers is important for linking the glacial, terrestrial and marine ecosystems and to quantify the impact of a warming climate. The quantification of fluxes is not trivial. This study uses a 8-years data set (2005-2012) of daily measurements from the high-Artic Zackenberg River in Northeast Greenland to estimate annual suspended sediment fluxes based on four commonly used methods: M1) is the discharge weighted mean and uses direct measurements, while M2-M4) are one uncorrected and two bias corrected rating curves extrapolating a continuous concentration trace from measured values. All methods are tested on complete and reduced datasets. The average annual runoff in the period 2005-2012 was 190±25mio·m3 y-1. The different estimation methods gave a range of average annual suspended sediment fluxes between 43,000±10,000ty-1 and 61,000±16,000ty-1. Extreme events with high discharges had a mean duration of 1day. The average suspended sediment flux during extreme events was 17,000±5000ty-1, which constitutes a year-to-year variation of 20-37% of the total annual flux. The most accurate sampling strategy was bi-daily sampling together with a sampling frequency of 2h during extreme events. The most consistent estimation method was an uncorrected rating curve of bi-daily measurements (M2), combined with a linear interpolation of extreme event fluxes. Sampling can be reduced to every fourth day, with both method-agreements and accuracies <±10%, using 7year averages. The specific annual method-agreements were <±10% for all years and the specific annual accuracies <±20% for 6years out of 7. The rating curves were less sensitive to day-to-day variations in the measured suspended sediment concentrations. The discharge weighted mean was not recommended in the high-Arctic Zackenberg River, unless sampling was done bi-daily, every day and events sampled high-frequently.

Original languageEnglish
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes

Cite this