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Hydrogeophysics for Groundwater/Surface-water Interaction Studies > Alaska 2017

What does groundwater have to do with ice in Alaska?

 [ Photo: Scientist operates equipment console while towing GPR on ice. ]

Figure 1. Research Hydrologist Neil Terry (USGS) collects ground-penetrating radar (GPR) data. Using hydrogeophysical tools such as GPR enables scientists to collect images of the structure and conditions of the ice below them. (April 2017) Credit: USGS. Photos are in the public domain.

USGS scientists are working alongside University researchers in Alaska to understand how groundwater and permafrost conditions change over time due to seasonal variations and climate change. Changes in permafrost can pose a threat to built infrastructure -- such as roads, homes, and pipelines -- and to valued ecological resources that provide important habitats for wildlife.

During the cold Alaska winters, groundwater discharging in springs at the ground surface freezes, causing thick accumulations of ice called aufeis in areas with permafrost. Scientists from the USGS Office of Groundwater, Branch of Geophysics and the Crustal Geophysics and Geochemistry Science Center are using geophysics to study aufeis features, including potential thawed zones beneath. Geophysical tools provide us with noninvasive ways to see through ice and the earth, much like how medical imaging lets us see inside the human body.

USGS scientists returned to Alaska in April 2017 as part of this ongoing research led by several University collaborators. Using geophysical methods such as ground-penetrating radar (GPR), passive seismic, electromagnetic induction, infrared, and nuclear magnetic resonance, USGS scientists are studying aufeis in Alaska to understand:

Learn more about geophysics for USGS groundwater/surface-water interaction studies.


Photo Gallery

Credit: USGS. Photos are in the public domain.

 [ Photo: Scientist tows GPR over ice. ]

Figure 2. Research Hydrologist Martin Briggs (USGS) tows ground-penetrating radar (GPR) during field work in Alaska. (April 2017)

 [ Photo: Scientist operates equipment console while towing GPR on ice. ]

Figure 3. Research Hydrologist Martin Briggs (USGS) collects ground-penetrating radar (GPR) data. He is wearing special ice cleats on his shoes to have better traction walking on the ice. (April 2017)

 [ Photo: Scientists work on equipment in snow-covered area. ]

Figure 4. USGS Research Geophysicist Andy Kass (left, in orange) adjusts surface nuclear magnetic resonance equipment (NMR) with input from collaborators Eliot Grunewald (Vista Clara), Alex Huryn (University of Alabama), and Patrick Hendrickson (University of Colorado). NMR is being used to measure the distribution of liquid water in the subsurface. (April 2017)

 [ Photo: Scientists operate equipment in snow-covered area. ]

Figure 5. USGS scientists conduct field work in the foothills of the Brooks Range in Alaska. Hydrologist Eric White (left) is collecting ground-penetrating radar (GPR). Research Hydrologist Martin Briggs (right) is collecting broadband electromagnetic induction data. The flowing water visible in the background is groundwater discharging at a spring. (October 2016)

 [ Photo: Scientist tows GPR over ice. ]

Figure 6. Research Hydrologist Neil Terry (USGS) collects ground-penetrating radar (GPR) data along an oil pipeline in Alaska. (April 2017)

 [ Photo: Helicopter with equipment strapped to side. ]

Figure 7. Helicopters are often used to carry scientists and equipment to remote study areas in Alaska. In this photo, a ground-penetrating radar (GPR) unit is securely strapped to the side of the helicopter. (April 2017)

 [ Photo of oil pipeline ]

Figure 8. View down the oil pipeline through one April 2017 study area. (April 2017)

 [ Photo of oil pipeline ]

Figure 9. Summertime view of oil pipeline, for comparison. (August 2013)

For more information

For more information on this project, please contact Martin Briggs (Research Hydrologist, USGS OGW Branch of Geophysics), or call the Branch of Geophysics at (860) 487-7402.

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Page Last Modified: Wednesday, 05-Jul-2017 17:39:27 EDT