Measuring Thaw Depth Beneath Peat-Lined Arctic Streams Using Ground-Penetrating Radar

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In arctic streams, depth of thaw beneath the stream channel is likely a significant parameter controlling hyporheic zone hydrology and biogeochemical cycling. As part of an interdisciplinary study of this system, we conducted a field investigation to test the effectiveness of imaging substream permafrost using ground-penetrating radar (GPR). We investigated three sites characterized by low-energy water flow, organic material lining the streambeds, and water depths ranging from 0·2 to 2 m. We acquired data using a 200 MHz pulsed radar system with the antennas mounted in the bottom of a small rubber boat that was pulled across the stream while triggering the radar at a constant rate. We achieved excellent results at all three sites, with a clear continuous image of the permafrost boundary both peripheral to and beneath the stream. Our results demonstrate that GPR can be an effective tool for measuring substream thaw depth.