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Journal Article

Estimating Active-Layer Thickness over a Large Region: Kuparuk River Basin, Alaska, U.S.A.

F. E. Nelson, N. I. Shiklomanov, G. R. Mueller, K. M. Hinkel, D. A. Walker and J. G. Bockheim
Arctic and Alpine Research
Vol. 29, No. 4 (Nov., 1997), pp. 367-378
DOI: 10.2307/1551985
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1551985
Page Count: 12
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Estimating Active-Layer Thickness over a Large Region: Kuparuk River Basin, Alaska, U.S.A.
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Abstract

Active-layer thickness was mapped over a 26,278-km2 area of northern Alaska containing complex and highly variable patterns of topography, vegetation, and soil properties. Procedures included frequent probing to ascertain thaw depth in representative land-cover units, extensive thermal monitoring with data loggers, and application of spatial analytic techniques. Geographic information systems technology was used analytically to merge thaw-depth and temperature data with a digital land-cover map, a digital elevation model, and a topoclimatic index, yielding a spatial time series of active-layer thickness for the map area at weekly intervals over the summer of 1995. Although the maps show a strong regional trend in the thickness of the active layer, extreme local variation occurs in complex terrain and in areas with sharp discontinuities in soil moisture content. Because active-layer thickness is influenced strongly by vegetation and soil properties, the relative volume of thawed soil beneath several landscape units is not proportional to the relative surface area occupied by those units. Predicted values of active-layer thickness are within approx. 6 cm of measured mean values in representative 1-km units distributed over the latitudinal extent of the study area. If computed and averaged for a series of years (e.g, one decade), the integrated products yielded by the mapping procedures could be used as baseline documents for comparison with calculations based on climate-change simulations.

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