Articles | Volume 9, issue 2
The Cryosphere, 9, 465–478, 2015
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-9-465-2015
The Cryosphere, 9, 465–478, 2015
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-9-465-2015

Research article 04 Mar 2015

Research article | 04 Mar 2015

Geophysical mapping of palsa peatland permafrost

Y. Sjöberg1, P. Marklund2, R. Pettersson2, and S. W. Lyon1 Y. Sjöberg et al.
  • 1Department of Physical Geography and the Bolin Centre for Climate Research, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden
  • 2Department of Earth Sciences, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden

Abstract. Permafrost peatlands are hydrological and biogeochemical hotspots in the discontinuous permafrost zone. Non-intrusive geophysical methods offer a possibility to map current permafrost spatial distributions in these environments. In this study, we estimate the depths to the permafrost table and base across a peatland in northern Sweden, using ground penetrating radar and electrical resistivity tomography. Seasonal thaw frost tables (at ~0.5 m depth), taliks (2.1–6.7 m deep), and the permafrost base (at ~16 m depth) could be detected. Higher occurrences of taliks were discovered at locations with a lower relative height of permafrost landforms, which is indicative of lower ground ice content at these locations. These results highlight the added value of combining geophysical techniques for assessing spatial distributions of permafrost within the rapidly changing sporadic permafrost zone. For example, based on a back-of-the-envelope calculation for the site considered here, we estimated that the permafrost could thaw completely within the next 3 centuries. Thus there is a clear need to benchmark current permafrost distributions and characteristics, particularly in under studied regions of the pan-Arctic.

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Short summary
Permafrost peatlands are hydrological and biogeochemical hotspots in discontinuous permafrost areas. We estimate the depths to the permafrost table surface and base across a peatland in northern Sweden using ground penetrating radar and electrical resistivity tomography. Seasonal frost tables, taliks, and the permafrost base could be detected. The results highlight the added value of combining techniques for assessing distributions of permafrost in the rapidly changing sporadic permafrost zone.