Direct current (DC) resistivity and induced polarization (IP) monitoring of active layer dynamics at high temporal resolution

Publication: Research - peer-reviewJournal article – Annual report year: 2015


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With permafrost thawing and changes in active layer dynamics induced by climate change, interactions between biogeochemical and thermal processes in the ground are of great importance. Here, active layer dynamics have been monitored using direct current (DC) resistivity and induced polarization (IP) measurements at high temporal resolution and at a relatively large scale at a heath tundra site on Disko Island on the west coast of Greenland (69°N). At the field site, the active layer is disconnected from the deeper permafrost, due to isothermal springs in the region. Borehole sediment characteristics and subsurface temperatures supplemented the DC-IP measurements. A time-lapse DC-IP monitoring system has been acquiring at least six datasets per day on a 42-electrode profile with 0.5. m electrode spacing since July 2013. Remote control of the data acquisition system enables interactive adaptation of the measurement schedule, which is critically important to acquire data in the winter months, where extremely high contact resistances increase the demands on the resistivity meter. Data acquired during the freezing period of October 2013 to February 2014 clearly image the soil freezing as a strong increase in resistivity. While the freezing horizon generally moves deeper with time, some variations in the freezing depth are observed along the profile. Comparison with depth-specific soil temperature indicates an exponential relationship between resistivity and below-freezing temperature. Time-lapse inversions of the full-decay IP data indicate a decrease of normalized chargeability with freezing of the ground, which is the result of a decrease in the total unfrozen water and of the higher ion concentration in the pore-water. We conclude that DC-IP time-lapse measurements can non-intrusively and reliably image freezing patterns and their lateral variation on a 10-100. m scale that is difficult to sample by point measurements. In combination with laboratory experiments, the different patterns in resistivity and chargeability changes will enable the disentanglement of processes (e.g., fluid migration and freezing, advective and diffusive heat transport) occurring during freezing of the ground. The technology can be expanded to three dimensions and also to larger scale.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCold Regions Science and Technology
Pages (from-to)16-28
Number of pages13
StatePublished - 2015
CitationsWeb of Science® Times Cited: 9


  • Active layer, Electrical resistivity, Greenland, Induced polarization, Monitoring, Permafrost
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ID: 116665832