Estuaries and Coasts

, Volume 30, Issue 6, pp 927–944 | Cite as

Oceanography of Glacier Bay, Alaska: Implications for biological patterns in a glacial fjord estuary

  • Lisa L. Etherington
  • Philip N. Hooge
  • Elizabeth R. Hooge
  • David F. Hill


Alaska, U.S.A, is one of the few remaining locations in the world that has fjords that contain temperate idewater glaciers. Studying such estuarine systems provides vital information on how deglaciation affects oceanographic onditions of fjords and surrounding coastal waters. The oceanographic system of Glacier Bay, Alaska, is of particular interest ue to the rapid deglaciation of the Bay and the resulting changes in the estuarine environment, the relatively high oncentrations of marine mammals, seabirds, fishes, and invertebrates, and the Bay’s status as a national park, where ommercial fisheries are being phased out. We describe the first comprehensive broad-scale analysis of physical and iological oceanographic conditions within Glacier Bay based on CTD measurements at 24 stations from 1993 to 2002. easonal patterns of near-surface salinity, temperature, stratification, turbidity, and euphotic depth suggest that freshwater nput was highest in summer, emphasizing the critical role of glacier and snowmelt to this system. Strong and persistent tratification of surface waters driven by freshwater input occurred from spring through fall. After accounting for seasonal nd spatial variation, several of the external physical factors (i.e., air temperature, precipitation, day length) explained a large mount of variation in the physical properties of the surface waters. Spatial patterns of phytoplankton biomass varied hroughout the year and were related to stratification levels, euphotic depth, and day length. We observed hydrographic atterns indicative of strong competing forces influencing water column stability within Glacier Bay: high levels of freshwater ischarge promoted stratification in the upper fjord, while strong tidal currents over the Bay’s shallow entrance sill enhanced ertical mixing. Where these two processes met in the central deep basins there were optimal conditions of intermediate tratification, higher light levels, and potential nutrient renewal. These conditions were associated with high and sustained hlorophylla levels observed from spring through fall in these zones of the Bay and provide a framework for understanding he abundance patterns of higher trophic levels within this estuarine system.


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Copyright information

© Estuarine Research Federation 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lisa L. Etherington
    • 1
  • Philip N. Hooge
    • 1
  • Elizabeth R. Hooge
    • 1
  • David F. Hill
    • 2
  1. 1.U.S. Geological SurveyAlaska Science CenterAnchorage
  2. 2.The Pennsylvania State UniversityUniversity Park
  3. 3.Cordell Bank National Marine SanctuaryOlema
  4. 4.Denali National Park and PreserveDenali Park
  5. 5.Denali Park

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