An estimate of ice wedge volume for a High Arctic polar desert environment, Fosheim Peninsula, Ellesmere Island

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Abstract

Quantifying ground-ice volume on a regional scale is necessary to assess the vulnerability of permafrost landscapes to thaw-induced disturbance like terrain subsidence and to quantify potential carbon release. Ice wedges (IWs) are a ubiquitous ground-ice landform in the Arctic. Their high spatial variability makes generalizing their potential role in landscape change problematic. IWs form polygonal networks that are visible on satellite imagery from surface troughs. This study provides a first approximation of IW ice volume for the Fosheim Peninsula, Ellesmere Island, a continuous permafrost area characterized by polar desert conditions and extensive ground ice. We perform basic GIS analyses on high-resolution satellite imagery to delineate IW troughs and estimate the associated IW ice volume using a 3-D subsurface model. We demonstrate the potential of two semi-automated IW trough delineation methods, one newly developed and one marginally used in previous studies, to increase the time efficiency of this process compared to manual delineation. Our methods yield acceptable IW ice volume estimates, validating the value of GIS to estimate IW volume on much larger scales. We estimate that IWs are potentially present on 50% of the Fosheim Peninsula (∼ 3000 km2), where 3.81% of the top 5.9m of permafrost could be IW ice.

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Bernard-Grand’Maison, C., & Pollard, W. (2018). An estimate of ice wedge volume for a High Arctic polar desert environment, Fosheim Peninsula, Ellesmere Island. Cryosphere, 12(11), 3589–3604. https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-12-3589-2018

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