Abstract

The paper presents the results of field studies on the movement of moisture and salts during freezing of Prairie soils. It is shown that large fluxes of water can migrate to the freezing front and move upward into the frozen soil above. The fluxes are largest in light-textured soils (e.g., silt loam) having a water table at shallow depth. However, substantial amounts of soil moisture may also move in silty clay, silty clay loam, and clay soils under dryland farming provided there is sufficient water present to support capillary flow.The dynamics of soil moisture transfer under natural conditions as a result of freezing involves movement of water in both vapor and liquid phases. In the shallow surface layer of soil, to a depth of 300–400 mm, vapor flow predominates; in the depth below, water usually moves primarily as a liquid. It is demonstrated that the accumulation of ice with time increases because of the downward movement of the freezing front and the upward movement of water into the frozen soil above. In a silt loam with large fluxes, the ice content of the frozen zone rapidly reaches a level (80–85% pore saturation) where measurable migration ceases. Conversely, in a silty clay the movement of moisture into the frozen soil is observed to continue throughout most of the freezing period, and the ice content reaches 93% pore saturation. The greater movement in the finer grained soil is attributed to a higher freezing-point depression, a larger number of capillary pores, and a higher concentration of soluble salts in the liquid films.A close association is observed between changes in the ice content and electrical conductivity of a silt loam after freezing. In a silty clay the agreement is less clear, probably the result of the exchange of ions between the migrating liquid water and the clay particles. Maximum amounts of exchangeable ions moving into a 1 m depth of soil by the freezing action are estimated to be 11.9 t/ha in a silt loam and 15.7 t/ha in a silty clay loam.Data showing the redistribution of water and salts during thawing are also presented and discussed.

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