A Model to Characterize Soil Moisture and Organic Matter Profiles in the Permafrost Active Layer in Support of Radar Remote Sensing in Alaska Artic Tundra

Posted on by Stephen Gee

Organic matter (OM) content and a shallow water table are two key variables that govern the physical properties of the subsurface within the active layer of arctic soils underlain by permafrost, where the majority of biogeochemical activities take place. A detailed understanding of the soil moisture and OM profile behavior over short vertical distances through the active layer is needed to adequately model the subsurface physical processes. To observe and characterize the profiles of soil properties in the active layer, we conducted detailed soil sampling at five sites along Dalton Highway on Alaska’s North Slope. These data were used to derive a generalized logistics function to characterize the total OM and water saturation fraction behavior through the profile. Furthermore, a new pedotransfer function was developed to estimate the soil bulk density and porosity—information that is largely missing from existing soil datasets—within each layer, solely from the soil texture (organic and mineral properties). Given the currently sparse soil database of the Alaskan Arctic, these profile models can be highly beneficial for radar remote sensing models to study active layer dynamics.

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