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Aufeis accumulations in stream bottoms in arctic and subarctic environments as a possible indicator of geologic structure: Chapter F in Recent U.S. Geological Survey studies in the Tintina Gold Province, Alaska, United States, and Yukon, Canada--results of a 5-year project

Scientific Investigations Report 2007-5289-F

This report is Chapter F in Recent U.S. Geological Survey studies in the Tintina Gold Province, Alaska, United States, and Yukon, Canada--results of a 5-year project. For more information, see: Scientific Investigation Report 2007-5289.
By:
, , , , and
Edited by:
Larry P. Gough and Warren C. Day

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Abstract

Thick accumulations of ice, called “aufeis,” form during winter along stream and river valleys in arctic and subarctic regions. In high-gradient alpine streams, aufeis forms mostly as a result of ground-water discharge into the stream channel. The ice occludes this discharge, perturbing the steady-state condition, and causing an incremental rise in the local water table until discharge occurs higher on the stream bank above the previously formed ice. Successive freezing of onlapping ice layers can lead to aufeis accumulations several meters thick. The location and extent of aufeis in high-gradient streams may be useful to relate local hydrology to geologic structure. In the Goodpaster River basin study area, mineral deposits are known to occur, the location of which may be structurally controlled. Therefore, a more thorough understanding of regional geologic structures may facilitate a more detailed understanding of the genesis of the mineral deposits. Extensive aufeis was observed during visits to the Goodpaster River basin in east-central Alaska during 1999, 2001, and 2002. Seeps from the sides of the valleys caused ice to build up, giving the ice surface a concave-upward shape perpendicular to the stream direction. This concavity is evidence for ground-water discharge along the length of the aufeis, as opposed to discharge from a single upstream point. During thaw, streamflow is commonly observed out of the normal channel, evidence that occlusion of the channel (and shallow sediments) by ice is a viable mechanism for causing the water table to rise. The thickest (>3 meters) and most extensive aufeis (100’s of meters to kilometers along valleys) coincided with locations of laterally extensive (>5 kilometers) mapped high-angle brittle fault zones, suggesting that the fault zones are hydraulically conductive. Additional evidence of water flow is provided by observed changes in stream-water chemistry in reaches in which aufeis forms, despite a lack of surface tributaries. Minor or no aufeis was observed in many other drainage valleys where no laterally extensive structures have been mapped, implying that aufeis formation results from more than a topographic effect or discharge from bank storage. Thus, the presence of thick, laterally extensive aufeis in highgradient streams may be a useful aid to geologic structural mapping in arctic and subarctic climates.

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Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Report
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Title:
Aufeis accumulations in stream bottoms in arctic and subarctic environments as a possible indicator of geologic structure: Chapter F in Recent U.S. Geological Survey studies in the Tintina Gold Province, Alaska, United States, and Yukon, Canada--results of a 5-year project
Series title:
Scientific Investigations Report
Series number:
2007-5289
Chapter:
F
Year Published:
2007
Language:
English
Publisher:
U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location:
Reston, VA
Contributing office(s):
Eastern Mineral Resources Science Center
Description:
iii, 9 p.
Larger Work Type:
Report
Larger Work Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Larger Work Title:
Recent U.S. Geological Survey studies in the Tintina Gold Province, Alaska, United States, and Yukon, Canada--results of a 5-year project (Scientific Investigations Report 2007-5289)
Country:
Canada;United States
State:
Alaska;Yukon
Other Geospatial:
Tintina Gold Province