EPSCoR - Alaska Adapting to Changing Environments
Measured Hydrologic Storage Characteristics of Three Major Ice Wedge Polygon Types, Barrow, Alaska. American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting. San Francisco, California.
Model simulations have suggested that the hydrologic fluxes and stores of Arctic wetlands are constrained by the micro-topographical features of ice wedge polygons, which are abundant in lowland tundra landscapes. Recently observed changes in ice wedge polygon landscapes - in particular, ice wedge degradation and trough formation - emphasize the need to better understand how differing ice wedge polygon morphologies affect the larger hydrologic system. Here we present three seasons of measured end-of-winter snow accumulation, continuous soil moisture and water table elevations, and repeated frost table mapping. Together, these describe the hydrologic characteristics of three main ice wedge polygon types: low centered polygons with limited trough development (representative of a ~500 year old vegetated drained thaw lake basin), and low- and high-centered polygons with well-defined troughs. Dramatic spatiotemporal variability exists both between polygon types and between the features of an individual polygon (e.g. troughs, centers, rims). Landscape-scale end-of-winter snow water equivalent is similar between polygon types, while the sub-polygon scale distribution of the surface water differs, both as snow and as ponded water. Some sub-polygon features appear buffered against large variations in water levels, while others display periods of prolonged recessions and large responses to rain events. Frost table elevations in general mimic the ground surface topography, but with spatiotemporal variability in thaw rate. The studied thaw seasons represented above long-term average rainfall, and in 2014, record high June precipitation. Differing ice wedge polygon types express dramatically different local hydrology, despite nearly identical climate forcing and landscape-scale snow accumulation, making ice wedge polygons an important component when describing the Arctic water, nutrient and energy system.
Data and Resources
Data Types: Report