Alaska Science Center

Climate change, melting glaciers, nutrient flux and ecosystem change: Hydrological, biogeochemical and biological linkages between the Copper River watershed and the coastal Gulf of Alaska

The USGS portion of this project measures iron as a micronutrient from glacial flour dust, on Middleton Island, AK.


The coastal Gulf of Alaska (GoA) region is experiencing accelerating climate change as manifested by rapid recession of glaciers; climate models predict up to a 40% increase in river runoff from Alaska rivers by 2050. Changes in freshwater discharge are likely to alter the flux of particulate micronutrient iron from glacier dominated rivers to the ocean, as well as nitrate fluxes to surface water from estuarine upwelling, with cascading effects throughout the ecosystem. The objective of this project is to evaluate the physical changes currently occurring in watersheds of the Copper River region attributable to melting ice and climate change, and examine their impact on the Copper River plume extending into the GoA. It will examine present-day relationships between landscape, nutrient supply, and ecosystem productivity. This project will fill several data gaps, will increase our understanding of how this complex system is driven by climate change, and will improve our ability to manage resources important for local economies.
Title Type
Seasonal and spatial variabilities in northern Gulf of Alaska surface water iron concentrations driven by shelf sediment resuspension, glacial meltwater, a Yakutat eddy, and dustPublication
Gulf of Alaska Shelf and Slope Iron and Nitrate Data, Copper River Region, 2010Data
Glacial flour dust storms in the Gulf of Alaska: Hydrologic and meteorological controls and their imPublication


Crusius, John , 508.457.2353

Status: completed
Start Year: 2010
End Year: 2017

Project Sites

Middleton Island

USGS Mission Area and Program
Land ResourcesClimate Research and Development
Land ResourcesNational Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center/DOI Climate Science Centers
Natural HazardsCoastal Marine Geology

Major Initiatives
CSC - Alaska Climate Science Center

Atmosphere > Aerosols
Climate Indicators > Hydrologic/Ocean Indices
Cryosphere > Glaciers/Ice Sheets
Oceans > Ocean Chemistry > Nutrients
Paleoclimate > Paleoclimate Reconstructions