Hydrology of the Mackenzie Delta: off-channel water storage and delta interaction with the Beaufort Sea

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Authors: Marsh, L. Lesack, F. Hicks, A. Roberts, C. Hopkinson, S. Solomon, D.L.Forbes, M. Russell, H. Haywood
Year: 2009
Journal: 17Th International Northern Research Basins Symposium and Workshop Iqaluit-Pangnirtung-Kuujjuaq, Canada, August 12 to 18, 2009 217-226    PDF 
Title: Hydrology of the Mackenzie Delta: off-channel water storage and delta interaction with the Beaufort Sea
Abstract: This paper reports on the development and application of a hydrodynamic model of river flows
and off-channel storage effects in the Mackenzie Delta, Canada, being developed in support of
the Canadian International Polar Year (IPY) project entitled “Polar Terrestrial Freshwater: State
and Flow to the Ocean”. This modelling effort is aimed at addressing questions related to
transport of fresh water and nutrients to the Arctic Ocean under open water and ice affected
conditions, and to estimate how water levels through the delta may change in response to
changing river flows, reduced or increased ice jamming, increasing sea-level, and enhanced storm
surges from the Beaufort coast.
The Mackenzie Delta Hydrodynamic Model (MDHM) is being built upon the University of
Alberta's River1D hydrodynamic and ice process model, capable of handling the highly dynamic
flows associated with events such as storm surges and ice jam formation and release. With an
area of more than 13,000 sq. km., and containing more than 45,000 lakes, the Mackenzie Delta is
a large and complex hydrodynamic system that presents unique modelling challenges. This paper
will present the details of the model application, and in particular, will focus on the unique
challenges involved in establishing a hydrodynamic model of such a large and complex northern
delta, in the face of limited topographic data on channel and lake geometry and flow connections,
sparse flow and water level monitoring, and complex river and ocean ice effects.
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