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Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2019-25
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2019-25
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 01 Apr 2019

Research article | 01 Apr 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Hydrology and Earth System Sciences (HESS).

Understanding the Relative Importance of Vertical and Horizontal Flow in Ice-Wedge Polygons

Nathan A. Wales1,2, Jesus D. Gomez-Velez2,3, Brent D. Newman1, Cathy J. Wilson1, Baptiste Dafflon4, Timothy J. Kneafsey4, and Stan D. Wullschleger5 Nathan A. Wales et al.
  • 1Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, NM, 87545, USA
  • 2Hydrology Program, Department of Earth & Environmental Science, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, Socorro, NM, 87801, USA
  • 3Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN, 37235, USA
  • 4Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, CA, 94720, USA
  • 5Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, TN, 37831-6301, USA

Abstract. Ice-wedge polygons are common Arctic landforms. The future of these landforms in a warming climate depends on the bidirectional feedback between the rate of ice-wedge degradation and changes in hydrological characteristics. This work aims to better understand the relative roles of vertical and horizontal water fluxes in the subsurface of polygonal landscapes, providing new insights and data to test and calibrate hydrology models. Field-scale investigations were conducted at an intensively-instrumented location on the Barrow Environmental Observatory (BEO) near Utqiaġvik, AK, USA. Using a conservative tracer, we examined controls of microtopography and the frost table on subsurface flow and transport within a low-centered and a high-centered polygon. Bromide tracer was applied at both polygons in July 2015 and transport was monitored through two thaw seasons. Samplers arrays placed in polygon centers, rims, and troughs were used to monitor tracer concentrations. In both polygons, the tracer first infiltrated vertically until encountering the frost table, then was transported horizontally. Horizontal flow occurred in more locations and at higher velocities of fluxes in the low-centered polygon than in the high-centered polygon. Preferential flow, influenced by frost table topography, was significant between polygon centers and troughs. Estimates of horizontal hydraulic conductivity were within the range of previous estimates of vertical conductivity, highlighting the importance of horizontal flow in these systems. This work forms a basis for understanding complexity of flow in polygonal landscapes.

Nathan A. Wales et al.
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Nathan A. Wales et al.
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Ice Wedge Polygon Bromide Tracer Experiment in Subsurface Flow, Barrow, Alaska 2015-2016 N. Wales https://doi.org/10.5440/1342954

Nathan A. Wales et al.
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Short summary
Rapid warming in the Arctic is causing increased permafrost temperatures and ground ice degradation. To study the effects of ice degradation on water distribution, tracer was applied to two end members of ice-wedge polygons – a ubiquitous landform in the Arctic. End member type was found to significantly affect water distribution as lower flux was observed with ice-wedge degradation. Results suggest ice degradation can influence partitioning of sequestered carbon as carbon dioxide or methane.
Rapid warming in the Arctic is causing increased permafrost temperatures and ground ice...
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