Frost boils and soil ice content: field observations

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Overduin, P. P. and Kane, D. L. (2006): Frost boils and soil ice content: field observations , Permafrost and Periglacial Processes, 17 (4), pp. 291-307 . doi: 10.1002/ppp.567
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Our aim is to measure and explain the seasonal changes in soil ice content in the frost boils of Galbraith Lake, Alaska. Instruments were installed in a frost boil to monitor the ground surface position and soil state over a period of 4 years. By comparing the subsidence and thaw rates, we calculate the soil ice content as a function of depth. Measured soil temperatures, liquid water contents and bulk apparent thermal conductivities are used to estimate latent heat production and release in the soil. The frost boil heaves during freezing and settles during thaw while the surrounding tundra heaves negligibly, but subsides measurably. Despite large changes in freezing rates from year to year, total heave and its distribution across the frost boil are similar between years. Winter air temperature and snow depth influence the freezing rate and ice distribution as a function of depth, but not the overall heave. This suggests that heave is controlled by water availability rather than the rate of heat removal from the soil. Areal ground subsidence rates between 2 and 5 cm/yr are due to the disappearance of ice at the base of the active layer, raising the possibility of ongoing thermokarst expansion around Galbraith Lake.

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