Arctic river temperature dynamics in a changing climate

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • Catherine L. Docherty
  • Jakob Abermann
  • Magnus Lund

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • Asiaq, Greenland Survey; 3900 Nuuk Greenland


Climate change in the Arctic is expected to have a major impact on stream ecosystems, affecting hydrological and thermal regimes. Although temperature is important to a range of in‐stream processes, previous Arctic stream temperature research is limited—focused on glacierised headwaters in summer—with limited attention to snowmelt streams and winter. This is the first high‐resolution study on stream temperature in north‐east Greenland (Zackenberg). Data were collected from five streams from September 2013 to September 2015 (24 months). During the winter, streams were largely frozen solid and water temperature variability low. Spring ice‐off date occurred simultaneously across all streams, but 11 days earlier in 2014 compared with 2015 due to thicker snow insulation. During summer, water temperature was highly variable and exhibited a strong relationship with meteorological variables, particularly incoming shortwave radiation and air temperature. Mean summer water temperature in these snowmelt streams was high compared with streams studied previously in Svalbard, yet was lower in Swedish Lapland, as was expected given latitude. With global warning, Arctic stream thermal variability may be less in summer and increased during the winter due to higher summer air temperature and elevated winter precipitation, and the spring and autumn ice‐on and ice‐off dates may extend the flowing water season—in turn affecting stream productivity and diversity.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1212-1227
Number of pages16
JournalRiver Research and Applications
Issue number8
Early online dateOct 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - Oct 2019


  • Arctic, Greenland, hydrology, meltwater, river temperature, stream, thermal dynamics