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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Quantification of Arctic Soil and Permafrost Properties Using Ground-Penetrating Radar and Electrical Resistivity Tomography Datasets

  • Author(s): Leger, E
  • Dafflon, B
  • Soom, F
  • Peterson, J
  • Ulrich, C
  • Hubbard, S
  • et al.

Improving understanding of Arctic ecosystem climate feedback and parameterization of models that simulate freeze-Thaw dynamics require advances in quantifying soil and snow properties. Due to the significant spatiotemporal variability of soil properties and the limited information provided by point-scale measurements (e.g., cores), geophysical methods hold potential for improving soil and permafrost characterization. In this study, we evaluate the use of a ground-penetrating radar (GPR) to estimate thaw layer thickness, snow depth, and ice-wedge characteristics in an ice-wedge-dominated tundra region near Barrow, AK, USA. To this end, we analyze GPR and point-scale measurements collected along several parallel transects at the end of the growing season and the end of frozen season. In addition, we compare the structural information extracted from the GPR data with electrical resistivity tomography (ERT) information about ice-wedge characteristics. Our study generally highlights the value of GPR data collected in the frozen season, when conditions lead to the improved GPR signal-To-noise ratio, facilitate data acquisition, and reduce acquisition-related ecosystem disturbance relative to growing season. We document for the first time that GPR data collected during the frozen season can provide reliable estimates of active layer thickness and geometry of ice wedges. We find that the ice-wedge geometry extracted from GPR data collected during the frozen season is consistent with ERT data, and that GPR data can be used to constrain the ERT inversion. Consistent with recent studies, we also find that GPR data collected during the frozen season can provide good estimates of snow thickness, and that GPR data collected during the growing season can provide reliable estimate thaw depth. Our quantification of the value of the GPR and ERT data collected during growing and frozen seasons paves the way for coupled inversion of the datasets to improve understanding of permafrost variability.

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