• Permafrost;
  • periglacial;
  • ground ice;
  • ice wedge;
  • ice-wedge cast


Frost-cracking and ice-wedge growth are fundamental processes within the permafrost environment. Extensive areas of contemporary permafrost terrain are characterised by frost-fissure polygons, formed by repeated thermal contraction-cracking of the ground. The incremental growth of ice veins and wedges along the axes of contraction-cracks contributes significantly to the volume of ground ice in near-surface permafrost. In areas beyond the present limit of permafrost, the recognition of ice-wedge pseudomorphs provides one of the few unambiguous indications of the former existence of permafrost conditions. An understanding of the processes of ice-wedge growth and thaw transformation is essential if contemporary ice wedges are to be used as analogues for Pleistocene frost-fissure structures, in palaeoenvironmental reconstructions.