High water in the Koyukuk River is causing erosion near Huslia as warm spring temperatures rapidly melt above-average snowpack.
Observation by Ken Newman:
Huslia is seeing continued river erosion chomping away at the bank on the village side.
Shared with Jackie Schaeffer
Comments from LEO Editors:
Rick Thoman, climate scientist at the Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy (ACCAP), presented an Alaska Winter 2019-2020 Climate Review during the LEO Network webinar on April 21st, 2020. In his review, Rick describes higher than normal precipitation for most of the state between October and December, increasing the snowpack. Warmer than average spring temperatures are rapidly melting the above-average snowpack in much of the Interior, leading to flooding and erosion in some communities.
We reached out to Crane Johnson, a hydrologist with the Alaska Pacific River Forecast Center, for more information on spring river discharge rates, which can impact erosion.
There are very little data on the Koyukuk River. The automated gauge maintained by Bureau of Land Management was damaged by ice during breakup. Our manual observer in Allakaket was taking readings during breakup and reported water over the bank and flooding low-lying roads in Allakaket on May 13th. This high water would have worked its way downstream about 5 days later to Huslia. While not as high as last year, water levels at Huslia were likely higher than normal this year due to the above-average snowpack in 2020. Pictured below is the Natural Resources and Conservation Service precipitation map for Oct 1 through May 1, along with the Alaska snowpack map. Snowpack in the Koyukuk was well above average at the start of the month.
This was a typical breakup and highlights the value of manual observers throughout Alaska. They provide information for downstream communities. During breakup, automated gauges are often damaged and out of service.
To submit observations of break up in your community to the Alaska Pacific River Forecast Center, use their online web form or send them an email at email@example.com.