Overduin, P.P., 2005, The physical dynamics of patterned ground in the northern foothills of the Brooks Range, Alaska: University of Alaska Fairbanks, Ph.D. dissertation, 164 p., illust.
Periglacial landforms, called patterned ground, change the vegetation, microtopography and organic content of the surface soil horizons. Because they are uniquely products of the periglacial environment, changes in that environment affect their distribution and activity. As surface features, they mitigate heat and mass transfer processes between the land and atmosphere. For environmental change detection, the state of the soil and active layer must be monitored across temporal and spatial scales that include these features. It is suggested here that changes in the state of the active layer due to the abrupt spatial changes in surface soil character lead to changes in the distribution of soil components, soil bulk thermal properties and the thermal and hydrological fluxes result. The determination of soil volumetric moisture content using the relative dielectric permittivity of the soil is extended to include live and dead low-density feathermoss. High temporal resolution monitoring of the thermal conductivity of mineral and organic soil horizons over multiple annual cycles is introduced, along with a new method for analyzing the results of transient heat pulse sensor measurements. These results are applied to studies of frost boils and soil stripes in the northern foothills of the Brooks Range in Alaska. Active layer ice dynamics determine the thermal properties of the frozen soil in the frost boil pedon. Annual heaving and subsiding of the ground surface reflects these changes in ice content and can be used to estimate active layer ice content as a function of depth. These estimates correlate with bulk soil thermal diffusivity, inferred as a function of depth from temperature data. Differences in soil thermal diffusivity determine thaw depth differences between frost boil and tundra, and between wet and dry soil stripes. For the latter, deeper subsurface flow through the high organic content wet stripes is delayed until mid-summer; when it does occur, it has a large component normal to the hillslope as a consequence of differential heave. Dynamics in these periglacial landforms can be identified from surface features, highlighting the potential for scaling up their net effect using remote sensing techniques.
Theses and Dissertations