Plug, L.J., 2000

Publication Details

  • Title:

    "Ice-wedge networks and ""whale hole"" ponds in frozen ground"
  • Authors:

    Plug, L.J.
  • Publication Date:

    2000
  • Publisher:

    University of Alaska Fairbanks 
  • Ordering Info:

    Not available
  • Quadrangle(s):

    Kotzebue; Shishmaref

Bibliographic Reference

Plug, L.J., 2000, "Ice-wedge networks and ""whale hole"" ponds in frozen ground": University of Alaska Fairbanks, Ph.D. dissertation, 162 p.

Abstract

The patterns of ice-wedge networks and whale-hole ponds in frozen ground self-organize by strong interactions between pattern elements. Mechanisms for the consistent spacing (15-25 m) and orientation between ice wedges are examined in a model encapsulating the opening of fractures under a combination of thermally induced tensile stress, stress reduction near open fractures, and heterogeneity of frozen ground and insulating snow. Modeled networks are similar to ice-wedge networks on the Espenberg coastal plain, Bering Land-Bridge National Park, Alaska, at the level of variation among Espenberg networks, as indicated by: (1) comparisons of distributions of relative orientation and spacing between wedges; and (2) application of nonlinear spatial forecasting to modeled and Espenberg network patterns. Spacing in modeled networks is sensitive to fracture depth and weakly sensitive to thermally induced tensile stress and substrate strength, consistent with the narrow range of spacing between natural ice wedges in different regions. In an extended model that includes recurring fractures over thousands of winters, networks similar to natural ice-wedge networks form. The annual pattern of fractures diverges from the ice-wedge pattern, with only 1/2 to 3/4 of wedges fracturing in a single year at a steady-state reached after approximately 1,000 yr. Short-lived sequences of extreme stress from cooling can permanently alter the spacing between and the fracture frequency of modeled ice wedges, suggesting that the existence and characteristics of existing and relic natural ice-wedge networks reflect extreme, not mean, climate conditions. Ponds on the Espenberg beach-ridge plain, approximately 2 m across and 1 m deep and surrounded by raised rings of ice-rich permafrost 2 m across and 0.5 m high, form through an interplay between localized bacterial decomposition of peat, thawing of frozen ground, and frost heaving of peat in rings. Groups of hundreds of ponds at Espenberg assemble through time because new ponds are favored to form adjacent to raised rings around existing ponds. The nonlinear behavior that results from strong interactions in patterns of ice-wedge networks and in ponds suggests general limitations in the application of linear approaches to inferring the response of geomorphic systems to changes in forcing, such as climate change.

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