Internal Structure of a Lithalsa in the Akkol Valley, Russian Altai Mountains


Go Iwahana, International Arctic Research Center, University of Alaska Fairbanks, 930 Koyukuk Drive, Fairbanks, Alaska/Hokkaido University, N10W5 Kitaku Sapporo, Japan. E-mail:


Perennial frost mounds are present near the edges of ponds located on the terrace between the mountain flank and a valley-bottom lake in the Akkol valley of the Russian Altai Mountains. These mounds are 10–50 m in diameter and 3–6 m in height. We describe one mound, identified as a lithalsa, which had been eroded so as to expose almost its entire vertical cross-section, revealing its internal structure. The frozen core consisted mainly of soil segments suspended in reticulate ice lenses with a mean thickness of 11–48 mm and a maximum thickness of about 160 mm. The shapes of the soil segments matched their neighbours. Other features included soil segments suspended in the ice veins shaped like ‘En echelon gash veins’, and the presence of a radial structure of ice-rich and sediment-rich frozen bands. These features all suggest the greater importance of a differential stress field during heaving of the mound and after ice segregation, compared to the thermal gradient and water supply. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.