It is generally assumed that permafrost is preserved beneath shallow lakes and ponds in the Western North American Arctic where water depth is less than about two thirds of the late-winter lake ice thickness. Here we present field observations of talik development beneath water as shallow as 0.2 m despite a lake ice thickness of 1.5 m, in Old Crow Flats (OCF), YT. Conditions leading to the initiation and development of taliks beneath shallow water were investigated with field measurements of shore erosion rates, bathymetry, ice thickness, snow accumulation, and lake bottom temperature near the shores of two expanding lakes in OCF. The sensitivity of talik development to variations in lake bottom thermal regime was then investigated numerically. Where ice reached the lake bottom, talik development was controlled by the ratio of freezing degree days to thawing degree days at the lake bottom (FDDlb/TDDlb). In some cases, spatial variations in on-ice snow depth had a minimal effect on annual mean lake bottom temperature (Tlb) but caused sufficient variations in FDDlb/TDDlb to influence talik development. Where Tlb was close to but greater than 0°C simulations indicated that the thermal offset allowed permafrost aggradation to occur under certain conditions, resulting in irregular near-shore talik geometries. The results highlight the sensitivity of permafrost to small changes in lake bottom thermal conditions where the water column freezes through in early winter and indicate the occurrence of permafrost degradation beneath very shallow water in the near-shore zone of Arctic ponds and lakes.

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Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface
Department of Geography and Environmental Studies

Roy-Leveillee, P. (Pascale), & Burn, C. (2017). Near-shore talik development beneath shallow water in expanding thermokarst lakes, Old Crow Flats, Yukon. Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface, 122(5), 1070–1089. doi:10.1002/2016JF004022