Modeling biogeophysical interactions in nonsorted circles in the Low Arctic



[1] We investigate biogeophysical processes that cause differential frost heave in nonsorted circles north of the Alaska's Brooks Range. The main objective is the development of a numerical thermo-mechanical model of a nonsorted circle. The presented model includes mass, momentum and energy conservation laws for water, ice and soil. We applied this model to simulate differential frost heave at the Franklin Bluffs site and obtained a good quantitative agreement with measured dynamics of soil temperature, water content, and frost heave. For other locations such as at the Sagwon Hills and Howe Island sites we obtained qualitative agreement with frost-heave measurements. Sensitivity analysis shows that the most active development of differential frost heave occurs for nonsorted circles within waterlogged areas, as observed in field measurements. For well drained sites, model results and field observations show that the differential frost heave is much smaller in magnitude comparing to that of the water-logged sites. Sensitivity of the model to alternation of the vegetation cover shows that a strong heterogeneity in the vegetation cover promotes active development of the differential frost heave. For nonsorted circles with vegetation on top of the circle, the computed differential heave is less pronounced. The radius of the nonsorted circle influences the magnitude of the frost heave. The computed maximum frost heave in the center of the circle corresponds to 1–1.5 meter diameter nonsorted circles. For nonsorted circles with larger diameters, computed frost heave in the center of a circle is smaller compared to the heave at the circle circumference.