Arctic Freshwater Assessment: Sources, Fluxes, Storage and Effects
– a CliC-IASC Science Planning Workshop


Workshop Objective:

To discuss the initiation of an international, multi-organizational scientific effort to assess the role of freshwater in the Arctic domain including the atmosphere, ocean and the terrestrial systems.


There is increasing scientific recognition that changes to the Arctic freshwater systems has produced, and could produce even greater, changes to bio-geophysical and socio-economic systems of special importance to northern residents and also produce some extra-arctic effects that will have global consequences. To address such concerns, a scientific assessment will be conducted that focuses on assessing the various Arctic freshwater sources, fluxes, storage and effects. Notably, most of these are directly or indirectly controlled by cryospheric components and processes.  The range of sources and fluxes to be assessed include: atmospheric vapour transport, precipitation-evaporation, river flow, ablation of glaciers and ice caps, sea ice formation/ablation and marine (low-salinity water) exchanges. Extra-Arctic sources/fluxes from lower latitudes will be included, given their relatively large influence on the overall Arctic freshwater budget, as well as potential flux regulators (e.g. flow from the Greenland Ice Sheet).  

The relative temporal importance of the changing freshwater source components will also be evaluated, including aspects of key inter-annual variations (e.g., spring freshets) and regional differences, as well as the role of freshwater storage in the overall budget.  In reference to storage, of particular interest for the terrestrial system are lakes and soil moisture, including the influential role of thawing permafrost.  For the Arctic Ocean, the key area of interest is the storage of low-salinity water in marine basins, and its magnitude/rate and vectors of release. 

In considering the changes in the various freshwater components, synergistic roles among components, and the overall budget, the assessment will also evaluate their role in producing effects on: i) regional and global climate, ii) biological productivity and biodiversity, and iii) human and economic systems.  As a prerequisite to assessing future changes to freshwater components and their effects, an evaluation of relevant climate-model projections will be conducted to contextualize component assessments. 

The assessment is currently being developed in concert between the World Climate Research Program’s Climate and Cryosphere Project (CliC) and the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC), with the intention and hope of additional international organizations also participating.  Publications plans for this assessment include a number of reports tailored to the scientific foci of the individual participating organizations, and to a suite of scientific-journal review papers. Part of this first-stage workshop goal will be to identify key thematic areas and related, potential scientific contributors.  A subsequent workshop is being planned for late 2013.

This meeting was a follow up to the Arctic Freshwater Initiative planning meeting held during the 2012 Fall AGU in San Francisco, CA, USA. Participation was limited.

Notes from the previous meetings can be found here:

Date, Time, and Location

18 April 2013, 10:30 – 13:00
Conference Room of the Auditorium Maximum of the Jagiellonian University, 33 Krupnicza Street, Kraków

The workshop was held in conjunction with the Arctic Science Summit Week in Krakow, Poland from 13-19 April 2013. For more information on the conference, visit

Terry Prowse ( or Jenny Baeseman (

Sponsored by the Climate and Cryosphere Project and the International Arctic Science Committee.