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Vadose Zone Journal Abstract - Technical Note

Reproducing Field-Scale Active Layer Thaw in the Laboratory

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This article in VZJ

  1. Vol. 13 No. 8
    Received: Jan 15, 2014
    Published: July 25, 2014

    * Corresponding author(s): amohamme@ucalgary.ca
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  1. Aaron A. Mohammed a,
  2. Robert A. Schincariolb,
  3. Ranjeet M. Nagarec and
  4. William L. Quintond
  1. a Dep. of Earth Sciences, Univ. of Western Ontario, 1151 Richmond Street N, London, ON, N6A 5B7 Canada, currently at Dep. of Geoscience, Univ. of Calgary, 2500 University Drive NW, Calgary, AB, T2N 1N4 Canada
    b Dep. of Earth Sciences, Univ.of Western Ontario, 1151 Richmond Street N, London, ON, N6A 5B7 Canada
    c Water Business Unit, Worley Parsons Canada, 4445 Calgary Trail, Edmonton, AB, T6H 5R7 Canada
    d Cold Regions Research Centre, Wilfred Laurier Univ., 75 Avenue West, Waterloo, ON, N2L 3C5 Canada


A method is presented to maintain one-dimensional heat transport in variably saturated soil cells over freezing and thawing temperatures. It applies transient thermal boundary conditions and replicates field-scale ground thaw. The method allows the isolated study of coupled heat and transport in permafrost environments.

A method to simulate freeze–thaw and permafrost conditions on a large peat-soil column, housed in a biome, was developed. The design limits ambient temperature interference and maintains one-dimensional freezing and thawing. An air circulation system, in a cavity surrounding the active layer, allows manipulation of the lateral temperature boundary by actively maintaining an air temperature matching the average temperature of the soil column. Replicating realistic thermal boundary conditions enabled field-scale rates of active-layer thaw. Radial temperature gradients were small and temperature profiles mimicked those for similar field conditions. The design allows complete control of key hydrologic processes related to heat and water movement in permafrost terrains without scaling requirement; and presents a path forward for the large-scale experimental study of frozen ground processes. Because subarctic ecosystems are very vulnerable to climate and anthropogenic disturbances, the ability to simulate perturbations to natural systems in the laboratory is particularly important.

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Copyright © 2014. Copyright © by the Soil Science Society of America, Inc.