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Ground penetrating radar detection of subsnow liquid overflow on ice-covered lakes in interior Alaska

DOI: 10.5194/tcd-6-3079-2012

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Abstract:

Lakes are abundant throughout the pan-Arctic region. For many of these lakes ice cover lasts for up to two thirds of the year. This frozen cover allows human access to these lakes, which are therefore used for many subsistence and recreational activities, including water harvesting, fishing, and skiing. Safe access to these lakes may be compromised, however, when, after significant snowfall, the weight of the snow acts on the ice and causes liquid water to spill through weak spots and overflow at the snow-ice interface. Since visual detection of subsnow liquid overflow (SLO) is almost impossible our understanding on SLO processes is still very limited and geophysical methods that allow SLO detection are desirable. In this study we demonstrate that a commercially available, lightweight 1GHz, ground penetrating radar system can detect and map extent and intensity of SLO. Radar returns from wet snow-ice interfaces are at least twice as much in strength than returns from dry snow-ice interface. The presence of SLO also affects the quality of radar returns from the base of the lake ice. During dry conditions we were able to profile ice thickness of up to 1 m, conversely, we did not retrieve any ice-water returns in areas affected by SLO.

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