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Hall, D.K., 1980

Analysis of the origin of water, which forms large aufeis fields on the Arctic Slope of Alaska, using ground and landsat data

Bibliographic Reference

Hall, D.K., 1980, Analysis of the origin of water, which forms large aufeis fields on the Arctic Slope of Alaska, using ground and landsat data: University of Maryland, College Park, Ph.D. dissertation, 125 p., illust., maps.


The origin of the water which forms large aufeis fields (overflow river ice) on the Arctic Slope of Alaska has been controversial. For this study, various hypotheses were tested using ground and satellite data to analyze the origin of the aufeis water. Landsat Multispectral Scanner Subsystem satellite imagery acquired each June from 1973 through 1979, was used to locate and measure the maximum extent of aufeis in seven rivers on the Arctic Slope of Alaska, cloudcover permitting. The outline of the aufeis was transferred onto U.S. Geological Survey 1:250,000 scale topographic maps and measured using a grid. The topographic situation and size of each aufeis field on the Arctic Slope of Alaska were categorized. In addition, meteorological data from 1972 through 1979 were analyzed and graphically displayed with aufeis extent. Geologic maps of the Arctic Coastal Plain, Arctic Foothills and Brooks Range were used to analyze the origin of aufeis feed water and the topographic setting of the aufeis. Other aufeis parameters were measured in the field and from an associated aircraft overflight. Additionally, laboratory analysis of meltwater from aufeis cores was performed. Results of the field and laboratory studies indicate that the water derived from aufeis meltwater has a chemical composition different from the adjacent upstream river water. The association of aufeis with springs and faults in the eastern Arctic Slope is indicative of a subterranean origin of the source water. In addition, large aufeis fields were not found to be strongly associated with breaks in channel gradient nor did aufeis extent follow meteorological patterns both of which would be indicative of a local origin of aufeis feed water. It is concluded that aufeis extent in a given river channel on the Arctic Slope, is controlled by discharge from reservoirs of groundwater. It seems probable that precipitation passes into limestone aquifers in the Brooks Range, through an interconnecting system of subterranean fractures in calcareous rocks and ultimately discharges into alluvial sediments on the coastal plain to form aufeis. It is speculated that only small (perhaps beaded) aufeis patches are affected by local meteorological conditions of the months just prior to aufeis formation.

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