Regional Groundwater Flow in an Area Mapped as Continuous Permafrost, NE Alaska (USA)

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Fundamental knowledge of groundwater systems in areas of permafrost is often lacking. The likelihood of finding good quality groundwater resources of acceptable quantities generally decreases as the areal coverage of permafrost increases. In areas of continuous permafrost, the probability of finding areas of groundwater recharge and discharge are minimal. Still, in northeastern Alaska (USA), the presence of numerous springs and associated downstream aufeis formations clearly indicates that there has to be a groundwater system with the required complementary areas of groundwater recharge and transmission. Recharge zones and transmission pathways in this area of extensive permafrost, however, are essentially unknown. This study shows that the recharge occurs on the south side of the Brooks Range in northeastern Alaska, where extensive limestone outcrops are found. The transmission zone is beneath the permafrost, with discharge occurring through the springs via taliks through the permafrost (where faults are present) and also likely at the northern edge of the permafrost along the Beaufort Sea coast.