MAGS: Daily Discharge Measurements

The above photo shows the view looking north at the junction of the Arctic Red River (entering the picture on the lower left), and the Mackenzie River main channel entering the photo from the lower right corner on 1 June 1986. The flow was very high on that day (31,700 m/s), the maximum flow for 1986 (31,800 m/s) occurred the next day (Julian day 153), as can be seen on the climatological discharge plot.

The daily discharge measurements (m/s) for the Mackenzie River at the Arctic Red hydrometric station are available from the Water Survey of Canada, Environment Canada for the period 1973-1993. This is a subset of the data available on the HYDAT CD-ROM. The plots are annotated to indicate if the measurements were estimated (Est.) or made during ice conditions (Ice).

An alternate 'hovmoller' plot of the entire record of discharge of the Mackenzie River at Arctic Red River was produced by GWK Moore. Professor Moore indicates "You can clearly see the peak discharge that occurs each year and the variability of the peak from year to year. It is also clear that there are anomalies in the peak discharge that persist for several years. One can also clearly see the anomalous discharge events that occur during the summer (associated with heavy precipitation events) and unlike the amazing regularity in the spring melt, there is considerable variability in the freeze-up in the fall.".

Professors Moore and Yoshio Asuma note that "There appear to be some 'floods' in early to midsummer that clearly stand out. There are no such events in late summer. This may be further evidence of a transition in the synoptic scale regime. In early-mid summer, one has systems bringing moisture in from the Pacific. If they are stationary over the basin, they may be able to produce enough precipitation to register in the stream guage at Arctic Red. Late summer is a time when the snyopic scale regime brings (a reduced amount of) moisture in from the Arctic Ocean. There may be locally convective events that produce precipitation but it is not widespread enough to register".

Plotted along with the discharge measurements are the mean monthly precipitation (mm) (solid line) and mean monthly temperature (C) (dotted line) for the Mackenzie Basin. The Climate Research Branch, Environment Canada produced this derived data set using regression modelling of the temperature and precipitation fields on physiographic parameters. The input temperature and precipitation fields have not yet been corrected for measurement biases.

Corrections have been made to the annual precipitation recorded at a number of Mackenzie Basin sites between 1948-1993, by Metcalfe et al. This data has been made available.

The historical record of freezeup and breakup dates have been kept for several locations in the Mackenzie basin. In the delta area observations of dates of first ice, complete freeze over, first melt, water free of ice started at Aklavik in 1940 but stop in 1960 and moved to Inuvik were they continued until 1985. Because of the break in the record only the Inuvik data is shown. For example, the Inuvik record shows early freezeup in 1972 and 1974 and a late freeze up in 1979. These years correspond well to anomalously cold and warm fall temperatures at Inuvik, as shown in the Anomalous Years section.

Annual Plots

Freeze up Plots

Data Files

Mean Monthly Temperature & Precipitation (1950-1995): Mackenzie Basin Temperature and Precipitation Anomalies (1950-1994): Arctic Red River Discharge (1973-1993): Freeze up/Break up Data (1940-1985):