Environmental Management

, Volume 43, Issue 6, pp 1071-1084

First online:

Arctic Lake Physical Processes and Regimes with Implications for Winter Water Availability and Management in the National Petroleum Reserve Alaska

  • Benjamin M. JonesAffiliated withAlaska Science Center, U.S. Geological Survey Email author 
  • , Christopher D. ArpAffiliated withAlaska Science Center, U.S. Geological Survey
  • , Kenneth M. HinkelAffiliated withDepartment of Geography, University of Cincinnati
  • , Richard A. BeckAffiliated withDepartment of Geography, University of Cincinnati
  • , Joel A. SchmutzAffiliated withAlaska Science Center, U.S. Geological Survey
  • , Barry WinstonAffiliated withDepartment of Geography, University of Cincinnati

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Lakes are dominant landforms in the National Petroleum Reserve Alaska (NPRA) as well as important social and ecological resources. Of recent importance is the management of these freshwater ecosystems because lakes deeper than maximum ice thickness provide an important and often sole source of liquid water for aquatic biota, villages, and industry during winter. To better understand seasonal and annual hydrodynamics in the context of lake morphometry, we analyzed lakes in two adjacent areas where winter water use is expected to increase in the near future because of industrial expansion. Landsat Thematic Mapper and Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus imagery acquired between 1985 and 2007 were analyzed and compared with climate data to understand interannual variability. Measured changes in lake area extent varied by 0.6% and were significantly correlated to total precipitation in the preceding 12 months (p < 0.05). Using this relation, the modeled lake area extent from 1985 to 2007 showed no long-term trends. In addition, high-resolution aerial photography, bathymetric surveys, water-level monitoring, and lake-ice thickness measurements and growth models were used to better understand seasonal hydrodynamics, surface area-to-volume relations, winter water availability, and more permanent changes related to geomorphic change. Together, these results describe how lakes vary seasonally and annually in two critical areas of the NPRA and provide simple models to help better predict variation in lake-water supply. Our findings suggest that both overestimation and underestimation of actual available winter water volume may occur regularly, and this understanding may help better inform management strategies as future resource use expands in the NPRA.


Alaska Arctic lakes Climate change Lake hydrology Lake ice Water resources Winter water use