Abstract

The time of ice-wedge cracking is examined for several sites with young and old ice wedges along the western Arctic coast. The correlation between sharp air temperature drops and ice-wedge cracking is highest where the snow cover is thin and least where the snow cover is thick. The favoured duration and rate of a temperature drop that results in cracking is about 4 days, at a rate of about 1.8°C/d. Such temperature drops have a minimal effect in cooling the top of permafrost wherever there is an appreciable snow cover. Since short duration temperature drops often result in ice-wedge cracking, the thermal stresses that trigger cracking probably originate more within the frozen active layer than at greater depth in permafrost. Although most ice wedges tend to crack during periods of decreasing air temperatures, about one third of those monitored have cracked during periods of increasing air temperatures. Long-term measurements show that the active layer and top of permafrost move differentially all year in a periodic movement. That is, creep of frozen ground occurs all year, irrespective of whether ice wedges crack or do not crack. The presence of a snow cover and the creep of frozen ground are two major factors that confound a simple application of conventional ice-wedge cracking theory to air temperature drops and the time of ice-wedge cracking.

You do not currently have access to this article.