Modelling the spatial pattern of ground thaw in a small basin in the arctic tundra
S. Endrizzi1,*, W. L. Quinton2, and P. Marsh11National Hydrology Research Centre, Environment Canada, Saskatoon, Canada 2Cold Regions Research Centre, Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Canada *now at: Department of Geography, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland
Received: 18 Jan 2011 – Accepted for review: 19 Jan 2011 – Discussion started: 31 Jan 2011
Abstract. In the arctic tundra the ground is normally composed by a relatively thin organic soil layer, overlying mineral sediment. Subsurface water drainage generally occurs in the organic layer for its high hydraulic conductivity. However, the organic layer shows significant decrease of hydraulic conductivity with depth. The position and the topography of the frost table, which here acts as a relatively impermeable surface, are therefore crucial in determining the hillslope drainage rate. This work aims at understanding how the topography of the ground surface affects the spatial variability of the depth of thaw in a 1 km2 low-elevation arctic tundra basin with a fine resolution model that fully couples energy and water flow processes. The simulations indicate that the spatial patterns of ground thaw are not dominated by slope and aspect, but are instead entirely controlled by the spatial distribution of soil moisture, which is determined by subsurface flow patterns. Measured thaw depths have a similar range of variability to the simulated values for each stage of active layer development, although the model slightly overestimated the depth of thaw.
Endrizzi, S., Quinton, W. L., and Marsh, P.: Modelling the spatial pattern of ground thaw in a small basin in the arctic tundra, The Cryosphere Discuss., 5, 367-400, doi:10.5194/tcd-5-367-2011, 2011.