Abstract

The frequency of ice-wedge cracking has been studied at Garry Island, Northwest Territories, for the 1967–1987 period. Sites have included low-centre polygons, intermediate-centre polygons, and polygons that do not fit any classification system. Analyses of crack frequency have included trough characteristics, polygon characteristics, and ice-wedge types. The results show that crack frequencies are highly variable within one site and also between two adjacent sites. The correlation between crack frequency and a low air temperature is poor. Crack frequencies for a site with 59 wedges ranged from 8 to 42% between 1967 and 1979 and for a nearby site with 32 wedges from 22 to 75% between 1967 and 1987. In view of the wide range in crack frequencies at a given site, the use of mean ice-wedge growth rates for estimating ages of ice wedges and their casts in environmental reconstruction may be hazardous. The data show that the common twofold classification into active and inactive wedges is difficult to apply because crack frequencies are gradational and dependent on such factors as the number of ice wedges being monitored, the size of the area, the types of ice wedges, and the length of the observation period. A system for classifying crack frequency is proposed.

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