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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 1, 2024
  2. Free, publicly-accessible full text available November 1, 2023
  3. Abstract. Thermokarst lake dynamics, which play an essential role in carbon releasedue to permafrost thaw, are affected by various geomorphological processes.In this study, we derive a three-dimensional (3D) Stefan equation tocharacterize talik geometry under a hypothetical thermokarst lake in thecontinuous permafrost region. Using the Euler equation in the calculus ofvariations, the lower bounds of the talik were determined as an extremum ofthe functional describing the phase boundary area with a fixed total talikvolume. We demonstrate that the semi-ellipsoid geometry of the talik isoptimal for minimizing the total permafrost thaw under the lake for a givenannual heat supply. The model predicting ellipsoidal talik geometry wascompared to talik thickness observations using transient electromagnetic(TEM) soundings in Peatball Lake on the Arctic Coastal Plain (ACP) ofnorthern Alaska. The depth : width ratio of the elliptical sub-lake talik cancharacterize the energy flux anisotropy in the permafrost, although the lakebathymetry cross section may not be elliptic due to the presence ofnear-surface ice-rich permafrost. This theory suggests that talikdevelopment deepens lakes and results in more uniform horizontal lakeexpansion around the perimeter of the lakes, while wind-induced waves andcurrents are likely responsible for the elongation and orientation ofshallow thermokarst lakes without taliks in certain regions such as the ACPof northernmore »Alaska.« less
  4. The belowground architecture of the critical zone (CZ) consists of soil and rock in various stages of weathering and wetness that acts as a medium for biological growth, mediates chemical reactions, and controls partitioning of hydrologic fluxes. Hydrogeophysical imaging provides unique insights into the geometries and properties of earth materials that are present in the CZ and beyond the reach of direct observation beside sparse wellbores. An improved understanding of CZ architecture can be achieved by leveraging the geophysical measurements of the subsurface. Creating categorical models of the CZ is valuable for driving hydrologic models and comparing belowground architectures between different sites to interpret weathering processes. The CZ architecture is revealed through a novel comparison of hillslopes by applying facies classification in the elastic-electric domain driven by surface-based hydrogeophysical measurements. Three pairs of hillslopes grouped according to common geologic substrates — granite, volcanic extrusive, and glacially altered — are classified by five different hydrofacies classes to reveal the relative wetness and weathering states. The hydrofacies classifications are robust to the choice of initial mean values used in the classification and noncontemporaneous timing of geophysical data acquisition. These results will lead to improved interdisciplinary models of CZ processes at various scalesmore »and to an increased ability to predict the hydrologic timing and partitioning. Beyond the hillslope scale, this enhanced capability to compare CZ architecture can also be exploited at the catchment scale with implications for improved understanding of the link between rock weathering, hydrochemical fluxes, and landscape morphology.« less
  5. null (Ed.)
    Lake formation and drainage are pervasive phenomena in permafrost regions. Drained lake basins (DLBs) are often the most common landforms in lowland permafrost regions in the Arctic (50% to 75% of the landscape). However, detailed assessments of DLB distribution and abundance are limited. In this study, we present a novel and scalable remote sensing-based approach to identifying DLBs in lowland permafrost regions, using the North Slope of Alaska as a case study. We validated this first North Slope-wide DLB data product against several previously published sub-regional scale datasets and manually classified points. The study area covered >71,000 km2, including a >39,000 km2 area not previously covered in existing DLB datasets. Our approach used Landsat-8 multispectral imagery and ArcticDEM data to derive a pixel-by-pixel statistical assessment of likelihood of DLB occurrence in sub-regions with different permafrost and periglacial landscape conditions, as well as to quantify aerial coverage of DLBs on the North Slope of Alaska. The results were consistent with previously published regional DLB datasets (up to 87% agreement) and showed high agreement with manually classified random points (64.4–95.5% for DLB and 83.2–95.4% for non-DLB areas). Validation of the remote sensing-based statistical approach on the North Slope of Alaska indicated thatmore »it may be possible to extend this methodology to conduct a comprehensive assessment of DLBs in pan-Arctic lowland permafrost regions. Better resolution of the spatial distribution of DLBs in lowland permafrost regions is important for quantitative studies on landscape diversity, wildlife habitat, permafrost, hydrology, geotechnical conditions, and high-latitude carbon cycling.« less
  6. Abstract

    The occurrence and magnitude of natural fossil methane (CH4) emissions in the Arctic are poorly known. Emission of geologic CH4, a potent greenhouse gas, originating beneath permafrost is of particular interest due to the potential for positive feedback to climate warming, whereby accelerated permafrost thaw releases permafrost‐trapped CH4in a future warmer climate. The development of through‐going taliks in Arctic lakes overlying hydrocarbon reservoirs is one mechanism of releasing geologically sourced, subpermafrost CH4. Here we use novel gas flux measurements, geophysical observations of the subsurface, shallow sediment coring, high‐resolution bathymetry measurements, and lake water chemistry measurements to produce a synoptic survey of the gas vent system in Esieh Lake, a northwest Alaska lake with exceedingly large geologic CH4seep emissions. We find that microbially produced fossil CH4is being vented though a narrow thaw conduit below Esieh Lake through pockmarks on the lake bottom. This is one of the highest flux geologic CH4seep fields known in the terrestrial environment and potentially the highest flux single methane seep. The poleward retreat of continuous permafrost may have implications for more subcap CH4release with increased permafrost thaw.

  7. Abstract

    A portion of water not consumed by crops during flood irrigation can flow back across the surface or through the subsurface to adjacent surface water bodies and streams as return flow. Few studies have directly addressed subsurface processes governing return flow and the importance of structural complexity on hydrologic process representation. It is challenging to measure and model these subsurface flow paths using traditional hydrologic observations. In this study, we assess the impact of subsurface structural complexity on vadose zone flow representation in a two‐dimensional transport model by varying structural complexity derived from background geophysical data. We assessed four model structures each with three soil types of homogeneous hydrologic properties, two of which were evaluated with and without an anisotropy factor. Wetting front arrival times, derived from time‐lapse electrical resistivity measurements during flood irrigation field experiments, were used to evaluate the different representations of soil profile structures. These data indicated both vertical and lateral preferential flow in the subsurface during flood irrigation. Inclusion of anisotropy in the saturated hydraulic conductivity field improved the ability to model subsurface hydrologic behavior when flow processes shifted from uniform to heterogeneous flow, as occurs with lateral subsurface return flow under flood irrigation drivenmore »by a large pressure gradient. This reduced the need for detailed spatial discretization to represent these observed subsurface flow processes. The resulting simple three‐layer model structure was better able to model both the vertical and lateral flow processes than a more complex geospatial structure, suggesting that overinterpretation of smoothed inverted profiles could lead to misrepresentation of the subsurface structure.

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