Arctic Climate and Water Change: Model and Observation Relevance for Assessment and Adaptation

  • Arvid BringEmail author
  • Georgia Destouni
Part of the Space Sciences Series of ISSI book series (SSSI, volume 46)


The Arctic is subject to growing economic and political interest. Meanwhile, its climate and water systems are in rapid transformation. In this paper, we review and extend a set of studies on climate model results, hydro-climatic change, and hydrological monitoring systems. Results indicate that general circulation model (GCM) projections of drainage basin temperature and precipitation have improved between two model generations. However, some inaccuracies remain for precipitation projections. When considering geographical priorities for monitoring or adaptation efforts, our results indicate that future projections by GCMs and recent observations diverge regarding the basins where temperature and precipitation changes currently are the most pronounced and where they will be so in the future. Regarding late twentieth-century discharge changes in major Arctic rivers, data generally show excess of water relative to precipitation changes. This indicates a possible contribution to sea-level rise of river water that was previously stored in permafrost or groundwater. The river contribution to the increasing Arctic Ocean freshwater inflow is similar in magnitude to the separate contribution from glaciers, which underlines the importance of considering all possible sources of freshwater when assessing sea-level change. We further investigate monitoring systems and find a lack of harmonized water chemistry data, which limits the ability to understand the origin and transport of nutrients, carbon and sediment to the sea. To provide adequate information for research and policy, Arctic hydrological and hydrochemical monitoring needs to be extended, better integrated and made more accessible. Further water-focused data and modeling efforts are required to resolve the source of excess discharge in Arctic rivers. Finally, improvements in climate model parameterizations are needed, in particular for precipitation projections.


Hydrology Monitoring Arctic Climate change Adaptation 


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© The Author(s) 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Physical Geography and Quaternary GeologyStockholm UniversityStockholmSweden
  2. 2.Bert Bolin Centre for Climate ResearchStockholm UniversityStockholmSweden

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