Remote sensing, regional ground temperature and ground ice observations, and numerical simulation were used to investigate the size, distribution, and activity of ice wedges in fine-grained mineral and organic soils across the forest-tundra transition in uplands east of theMackenzie Delta. In the northernmost dwarf-shrub tundra, ice wedge polygons cover up to 40% of the ground surface, with the wedges commonly exceeding 3m in width. The largest ice wedges are in peatlands where thermal contraction cracking occurs more frequently than in nearby hummocky terrain with fine-grained soils. There are fewer ice wedges, rarely exceeding 2m in width, in uplands to the south and none have been found in mineral soils of the tall-shrub tundra, although active icewedges are found there throughout peatlands. In the spruce forest zone, small, relict ice wedges are restricted to peatlands. At tundra sites, winter temperatures at the top of permafrost are lower in organic than mineral soils because of the shallow permafrost table, occurrence of phase change at 0°C, and the relatively high thermal conductivity of icy peat. Due to these factors and the high coefficient of thermal contraction of frozen saturated peat, ice wedge cracking and growth is more common in peatlands than in mineral soil. However, the high latent heat content of saturated organic active layer soils may inhibit freezeback, particularly where thick snow accumulates,making the permafrost and the ice wedges in spruce forest polygonal peatlands susceptible to degradation following alteration of drainage or climate warming.
Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface
Department of Geography and Environmental Studies

Kokelj, S.V. (S. V.), Lantz, T.C. (T. C.), Wolfe, S.A, Kanigan, J.C. (J. C.), Morse, P.D. (P. D.), Coutts, R. (R.), … Burn, C. (2014). Distribution and activity of ice wedges across the forest-tundra transition, western arctic Canada. Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface, 119(9), 2032–2047. doi:10.1002/2014JF003085