Exploring hydrology-permafrost-methane processes within the lake-to-watershed system
National Science Foundation, Office of Polar Programs, Arctic System Science Program, Award #1500931
This project aims to define processes within the hydrology-permafrost-methane system at the lake- to watershed scale across the seasonal to millennial time scales. The study domain, Goldstream Valley, Interior Alaska (Figure 1), offers a platform for process-oriented insights that are applicable for landscapes with discontinuous permafrost and thaw lakes, which are common in the sub-arctic region.
Figure 1. Goldstream Valley Watershed with the main roads, streams and lakes.
One of the topics we are investigating is how and why the extent of permafrost has varied since the last ice age up until today and especially how the flow and storage of water has controlled (and been controlled by) permafrost. Thawing of permafrost from below was likely accelerated when ridge-tops and south-facing slopes became permafrost-free, which allowed rain and snowmelt to infiltrate into the soil and recharge the groundwater aquifer. This as the relatively warm groundwater can be quite effective in thawing the bottom of the permafrost and therefore, speeding-up the thinning of the permafrost that has occurred since then.
The project will train postdocs, graduate and undergraduate students and there will be outreach to the local community, science teachers and their students via fieldwork and classroom activities. Further, the efforts will contribute to the Alaska Geological and Hydrological Survey program to develop a detailed understanding of Alaska's groundwater systems via the involvement of the Alaska Geological and Geophysical Survey.