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Slope hummocks, a type of nonsorted patterned ground, are composed of stratified, organic, silty sand, and develop through the interaction of niveo-eolian deposition, solifluction, slopewash, and vegetation growth. Fields of hummocks show consistent patterns: forms on convex slopes increase in height downslope until the channel is reached, whereas those on convexo-concave slopes increase on the upper convexity but are buried by niveo-eolian deposition downslope of the snowbank remnant. These trends can be reproduced using a simple numerical model based on measured slope and snow depth profiles, sediment concentrations in the snow and solifluction rates. The model indicates that hummocks transit slopes of 20–40 m in about 2–4 ka, a time-frame that is plausible given site emergence, measured rates of solifluction, and published dates for organic horizons within hummocks on northern Ellesmere Island. Sensitivity analyses show that long-term effect of climate warming on hummock heights may differ depending on whether it is accompanied by precipitation increase or decrease. The required combination of two-sided freezing to promote plug-like movement, incomplete vegetation cover and thin snow that enable eolian erosion during winter and spring, and vegetation growth in snow-bed sites to stabilize niveo-eolian deposits may explain why these forms are important regionally but apparently are not present throughout the Arctic.
A technique is described for measuring melt-water outflow from snowbanks that develop a basal ice layer. The method involves excavation of channels across ice exposed at the lower edge of a snowbank in order to divert run-off into a portable flume. Since discharges are measured before the water comes into contact with the soil, sub-surface flow and soil-moisture changes do not have to be assessed. Outflow discharges recorded at a perennial snowbank site on Melville Island, N.W.T., Canada, compare favourably with energy-balance calculations and measurements of ablation.
Energy fluxes and resultant short-term ablation rates were measured at a ground-ice slump on south-west Banks Island. Net radiation, as a proportion of the ablation flux, is greatest on days with high incident solar radiation, whereas on overcast days, sensible- and latent-heat inputs may supply more than half the necessary energy. A multiple regression equation using net radiation and a turbulent-energy term as independent variables explains 79% of the variation in the measured ablation fluxes. Overall, at least 60% of the energy used for ablation at the slump is derived from net radiation.
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