Abstract

The association of site characteristics with the n-factor, a ratio of air to ground surface temperature, was investigated at five sites in the boreal forest near Mayo, Yukon Territory. Permafrost was in equilibrium with surface conditions at three sites, was degrading at another, and was absent from the fifth. Air and near-surface ground temperatures were recorded by data loggers between September 2000 and April 2002, and mean daily temperatures were accumulated to calculate n-factors for the freezing (nf) and thawing (nt) seasons. Air temperature did not vary between the sites, so inter-site differences in nf and nt were because of variations in surface temperature. Variations in nf between the sites over the two winters were primarily because of differences in snow depth, but at sites with similar snow cover, the surface temperatures were relatively high when the site was underlain by unfrozen ground. During summer, daily mean surface temperatures were initially less than air temperatures. However, once the thawing front had penetrated below the depth of diurnal temperature fluctuation, the air and ground surface temperatures converged. Since the rate of thaw penetration is governed by soil thermal diffusivity, nt varies directly with this property. These results indicate that subsurface conditions, particularly absolute temperature and ground thermal properties, exert considerable influence on n-factors, and, at the Mayo sites, the influence is greater than that of the vegetation.

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