Saturated floodplains in Arctic deltas provide conditions favourable for frost mound growth. Little work has been reported from these settings to determine the origin of frost mounds and the controls on their distribution, to assess the longevity of individual mounds, or to quantify variation of mound distribution over time. A case study is presented on low mounds in low-centred syngenetic ice-wedge polygons of Big Lake Delta Plain, outer Mackenzie Delta. In 2008 and 2009, 12 mounds were examined by drilling to describe their morphologic variations and to investigate their growth processes. The mounds, containing a core of ice 15 to 58 cm thick, were less than 1 m high and 3·7 to 8·5 m in diameter; other mounds were over 10 m long. Organic inclusions in the ice, bubble densities, electrical conductivity profiles, and ice-crystal structure indicated that the mounds were hydrostatic frost blisters. Up to six frost blisters were found within individual polygons due to the relatively small volume of water needed to create each mound. Frost-blister densities, of greater than 1700 km-2, increased toward the wet centres of alluvial islands down gentle topographic gradients. The frost blisters were perennial, with individuals remaining identifiable on aerial photographs and satellite images for up to 10 years. Frost blisters collapsed along dilation cracks opened by hydrostatic uplift and by thawing from their sides caused by snow drifting and water ponding. Cyclical growth and decay of the mounds may degrade the visible polygonal network over time.

Additional Metadata
Keywords Frost blister, Low-centred ice-wedge polygons, Mackenzie Delta, Permafrost, Thermal regime
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1002/esp.3439
Journal Earth Surface Processes and Landforms
Citation
Morse, P.D. (Peter D.), & Burn, C. (2014). Perennial frost blisters of the outer Mackenzie Delta, western Arctic coast, Canada. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 39(2), 200–213. doi:10.1002/esp.3439