Articles | Volume 6, issue 6
The Cryosphere, 6, 1435–1443, 2012
The Cryosphere, 6, 1435–1443, 2012

Research article 06 Dec 2012

Research article | 06 Dec 2012

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

A. Gusmeroli1 and G. Grosse2 A. Gusmeroli and G. Grosse
  • 1International Arctic Research Center, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, Alaska, USA
  • 2Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, Alaska, USA

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. The 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 traveling condition onto 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 slush is almost impossible our understanding on overflow processes is still very limited and geophysical methods that allow water and slush detection are desirable. In this study we demonstrate that a commercially available, lightweight 1 GHz, ground penetrating radar system can detect and map extent and intensity of overflow. The strength of radar reflections from wet snow-ice interfaces are at least twice as much in strength than returns from dry snow-ice interface. The presence of overflow 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 overflow.