Freshwater Hydrology

The freshwater hydrology of the Arctic plays a key role in regulating global heat balance and ocean circulation. For example, the salinity stratification of the Arctic Ocean and ice cover provide a control on the surface heat and mass budgets of the northern polar region. Arctic freshwater hydrology is characterized by a strong seasonality, including freezing and thawing of fresh water. The short, intense spring snow and ice melt causes seasonal freshwater excess that must be routed through soils and stream channels overland. Eventually, a large amount of fresh water flows into the polar rivers, providing water to Arctic plants and ecosystems since permafrost prevents surface water from draining. Land surface freshwater budgets can be controlled by the changes in total water storage, which is equal to the sum of precipitation, evaporation, and river runoff. Most Arctic regions have a net surplus of fresh water from the hydrologic cycle, which ultimately flows into the Arctic Ocean.

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