Topographic controls on scaling of hydrologic and thermal processes in polygonal ground features of an Arctic ecosystem: A case study using idealized non-isothermal surface-subsurface simulations

Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Gautam Bisht1, William J Riley2, Nathan Collier3 and Jitendra Kumar3, (1)Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, CA, United States, (2)Lawrence Berkeley Natl Lab, Berkeley, CA, United States, (3)Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, TN, United States
Arctic and sub-Arctic soils currently contain approximately 1700 billion metric tones of frozen organic carbon, approximately 200 times current annual anthropogenic emissions. This carbon is vulnerable to release to the atmosphere as CO2 and CH4 as high-latitude temperatures warm. Microtopographic features, such as polygonal ground, are characteristic sources of landscape heterogeneity in the Alaskan Arctic coastal plain. In a future warmer climate, the spatial distribution of soil moisture and active layer depth are expected to be key factors controlling the fate of thawed permafrost carbon. Polygonal ground structures, with high or low centers, dominate the local hydrologic environment, thereby impacting the energy balance, biogeochemical dynamics, vegetation communities, and carbon releases from the subsurface. In spite of their importance to local hydrologic and thermal processes, the impact of these microtopographic features at larger spatial scales is not well understood. Our previous work from isothermal surface-subsurface simulations has indicated that statistical moments of soil moisture follow a non-linear scaling relationship. In this study, we perform surface-subsurface non-isothermal flow simulations using PFLOTRAN for four study sites located near Barrow, AK. Simulations are performed on domains at multiple horizontal resolutions for several years. We describe the statistical moments of simulated soil moisture and soil temperature fields across spatial resolutions.