Data sets river input

Key data sets
In climate research the modelling the hydrological cycle is of key importance. In the hydrological cycle, the river discharge provides the major link between land and sea. The Arctic Ocean receives fresh water from several major rivers while the Arctic Ocean is relatively small and well confined by land masses. This makes it the Ocean with the largest fresh water influence. The urge to understand the role of the arctic in climate change has led to several initiatives that gather data on the hydrology of the arctic. These initiatives have compiled databases containing the water discharge and in some cases various other parameters for at least the six largest rivers: Ob’, Yenisey, Lena, Kolyma, Yukon and Mackenzie, but in some cases also many small streams. The databases that have been identified and used to compile time series are:

  • The Arctic Great Rivers Observatory (Arctic-GRO)
  • ArcticRIMS
  • R-ArcticNET
  • ArcticHYCOS
  • HYDAT – Wateroffice Canada
  • NWIS United States Geological Survey

A notable data set that compiles information from the beforementioned databases is the ARDAT-database (Whitefield et al., 2015). In this database the monthly discharge and temperature cycle have been compiled and mapped to a 1/6° grid. This dataset is particularly useful to drive environmental models like sea ice models and climatological models.  

All these databases are freely accessible, in some cases registration is required.


This project is an international effort to collect and analyze a time series of water samples from the six largest Arctic rivers using identical sampling and analysis protocols. This project focusses on gathering a complete data set on the discharge and constituent loads. The following data-sets have been gathered:

Arctic-GRO II constituent data (2012-2016): Ongoing; 28 campaigns carried out every other month on the six Great Arctic Rivers

Arctic-GRO I constituent data (2009-2011): Completed; 15 comprehensive campaigns with a focus on freshet, late summer, and under-ice periods; daily samples over the freshet

PARTNERS constituent data (2004-2007): Completed; 17 comprehensive campaigns

This is the only identified data source that provides data on all requested physical parameters for the major rivers (Water volume and temperature, Sediment, Total nitrogen and Phosphates)

The ArcticRIMS project is a monitoring system for the hydrological cycle. Therefore its database contains data like precipitation, runoff, snow cover and air temperature. For this challenge only the discharge data are directly relevant and were considered. It appears that the ArcticRIMS discharge data is linked to the R-ArcticNET discharge data. 

The R-ArcticNET database contains the monthly averaged discharges of all large and most small arctic rivers. The database is hosted at the Water Systems Analysis Group of the University of New Hampshire. The most recent data in this database is from 2003. It is probably no longer maintained as the people who worked on this dataset are now contributing to ArcticHYCOS, which contains a superset of the Arctic discharge data. Also the ART-Russia Temperature Dataset is hosted here.

The Arctic-HYCOS project aims to improve the monitoring of freshwater fluxes and pollutants into the Arctic Ocean with the objective of improving climate predictions in the Northern Hemisphere and assessing the pollution of Arctic coastal areas and the open Arctic Ocean. Currently there is a database with monthly and daily discharge data for all large rivers and many small ones. Currently suitable monitoring stations are being identified to observe the total flow to the Arctic Ocean. There are ambitions to extend the database with additional parameters (temperature), but first observation methods need to be standardized (Looser BfG, pers. comm. 2016). This dataset is hosted as a special subset of the global runoff database at the Global Runoff Data Centre at the Bundesanstalt fuer Gewaesserkunde (BfG) in Germany.

National agencies
All previously described data sets contain discharge data gathered by the national agencies: United States Geological Survey (USGS), Wateroffice Canada and the State Hydraulic Institute (SHI) of Russia. Therefore basically they contain the same data, albeit with potentially different post processing and data gaps. The USGS and Wateroffice Canada offer download websites where the data can be downloaded directly from the collecting agency. Apart from discharge also some suspended sediment concentration measurements were found.