Resolution capacity of geophysical monitoring regarding permafrost degradation induced by hydrological processes

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Abstract

Geophysical methods are often used to characterise and monitor the subsurface composition of permafrost. The resolution capacity of standard methods, i.e. Electrical Resistivity Tomography and Refraction Seismic Tomography, depends hereby not only on static parameters such as measurement geometry, but also on the temporal variability in the contrast of the geophysical variables (electrical resistivity and P-wave velocity). Our study analyses the resolution capacity of Electrical Resistivity Tomography and Refraction Seismic Tomography for typical processes in the context of permafrost degradation using synthetic and field data sets of mountain permafrost terrain. In addition, we tested especially the resolution capacity of a petrophysically-based quantitative combination of both methods, the so-called 4-phase model, and by this analysed the expected changes in water and ice content upon permafrost thaw. The results from the synthetic data experiments suggest a higher sensitivity regarding increasing water content compared to decreased ice content, and potentially larger uncertainty for the individual geophysical methods than for the combined evaluation with the 4-phase model. In the latter, ground ice loss can be detected quite reliably, whereas artefacts occur in the case of increased horizontal or vertical water flow. Analysis of field data from a well-investigated rock glacier in the Swiss Alps successfully visualised the seasonal ice loss in summer, and the complex spatially variable ice-, water- and air content changes in an interannual comparison.

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Mewes, B., Hilbich, C., Delaloye, R., & Hauck, C. (2017). Resolution capacity of geophysical monitoring regarding permafrost degradation induced by hydrological processes. Cryosphere, 11(6), 2957–2974. https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-11-2957-2017

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