25 Aug 2021
25 Aug 2021
Status: a revised version of this preprint is currently under review for the journal TC.

Towards accurate quantification of ice content in permafrost of the Central Andes – Part II: an upscaling strategy of geophysical measurements to the catchment scale at two study sites

Tamara Mathys1, Christin Hilbich1, Lukas U. Arenson2, Pablo A. Wainstein2, and Christian Hauck1 Tamara Mathys et al.
  • 1University of Fribourg, Department of Geosciences, Switzerland
  • 2BGC Engineering Inc., Canada

Abstract. With ongoing climate change, there is a pressing need to better understand how much water is stored as ground ice in areas with extensive permafrost occurrence and how the regional water balance may alter in response to the potential generation of melt water from permafrost degradation. However, field-based data on permafrost in remote and mountainous areas such as the South-American Andes is scarce and most current ground ice estimates are based on broadly generalised assumptions such as volume-area scaling and mean ground ice content estimates of rock glaciers. In addition, ground ice contents in permafrost areas outside of rock glaciers are usually not considered, resulting in a significant uncertainty regarding the volume of ground ice in the Andes, and its hydrological role. In part I of this contribution, Hilbich et al. (submitted) present an extensive geophysical data set based on Electrical Resistivity Tomography (ERT) and Refraction Seismic Tomography (RST) surveys to detect and quantify ground ice of different landforms and surface types in several study regions in the semi-arid Andes of Chile and Argentina with the aim to contribute to the reduction of this data scarcity. In part II we focus on the development of a methodology for the upscaling of geophysical-based ground ice quantification to an entire catchment to estimate the total ground ice volume (and its estimated water equivalent) in the study areas. In addition to the geophysical data, the upscaling approach is based on a permafrost distribution model and classifications of surface and landform types. Where available, ERT and RST measurements were quantitatively combined to estimate the volumetric ground ice content using petrophysical relationships within the Four Phase Model (Hauck et al., 2011). In addition to introducing our upscaling methodology, we demonstrate that the estimation of large-scale ground ice volumes can be improved by including (i) non-rock glacier permafrost occurrences, and (ii) field evidence through a large number of geophysical surveys and ground truthing information. The results of our study indicate, that (i) conventional ground ice estimates for rock-glacier dominated catchments without in-situ data may significantly overestimate ground ice contents, and (ii) substantial volumes of ground ice may also be present in catchments where rock glaciers are lacking.

Tamara Mathys et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on tc-2021-251', Anonymous Referee #1, 12 Oct 2021
    • AC1: 'Reply on RC1', Tamara Mathys, 12 Jan 2022
  • RC2: 'Comment on tc-2021-251', Anonymous Referee #2, 20 Nov 2021
    • AC2: 'Reply on RC2', Tamara Mathys, 12 Jan 2022

Tamara Mathys et al.

Tamara Mathys et al.


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Short summary
With ongoing climate change, there is a pressing need to understand how much water is stored as ground ice in permafrost. Still, field-based data on permafrost in the Andes is scarce resulting in large uncertainties regarding ground ice volumes and their hydrological role. We introduce an upscaling methodology of geophysical-based ground ice quantifications to the catchment scale. Our results indicate that substantial ground ice volumes may also be present in areas without rock glaciers.