ABSTRACT

Shallow subsurface flow is a dominant process controlling hillslope runoff generation, soil development, and solute reaction and transport. Despite their importance, the location and geometry of these flow paths are difficult to determine. In arctic environments, shallow subsurface flow paths are limited to a thin zone of seasonal thaw above permafrost, which is traditionally assumed to mimic the surface topography. We have used a combined approach of electrical resistivity tomography (ERT) and self-potential (SP) measurements to map shallow subsurface flow paths in and around water tracks, drainage features common to arctic hillslopes. ERT measurements delineate thawed zones in the subsurface that control flow paths, whereas SP is sensitive to groundwater flow. We have found that areas of low electrical resistivity in the water tracks were deeper than manual thaw depth estimates and varied from the surface topography. This finding suggests that traditional techniques might underestimate active-layer thaw and the extent of the flow path network on arctic hillslopes. SP measurements identify complex 3D flow paths in the thawed zone. Our results lay the groundwork for investigations into the seasonal dynamics, hydrologic connectivity, and climate sensitivity of spatially distributed flow path networks on arctic hillslopes.

You do not currently have access to this article.