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Seismic and Electrical Geophysical Characterization of an Incipient Coastal Open‐System Pingo: Lagoon Pingo, Svalbard

Craig Hammock, Bernd Kulessa Orcid Logo, John Hiemstra Orcid Logo, Andrew J. Hodson, Alun Hubbard Orcid Logo

Earth and Space Science, Volume: 9, Issue: 3

Swansea University Authors: Craig Hammock, Bernd Kulessa Orcid Logo, John Hiemstra Orcid Logo

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DOI (Published version): 10.1029/2021ea002093

Abstract

Whilst there has been a recent appreciation for the role of open-system pingos in providing a fluid-flow conduit through continuous permafrost that enables methane release, the formation and internal structure of these ubiquitous permafrost-diagnostic landforms remains unclear. Here, we combine acti...

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Published in: Earth and Space Science
ISSN: 2333-5084 2333-5084
Published: American Geophysical Union (AGU) 2022
Online Access: Check full text

URI: https://cronfa.swan.ac.uk/Record/cronfa59058
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Abstract: Whilst there has been a recent appreciation for the role of open-system pingos in providing a fluid-flow conduit through continuous permafrost that enables methane release, the formation and internal structure of these ubiquitous permafrost-diagnostic landforms remains unclear. Here, we combine active-source seismic measurements with electrical resistivity tomography to investigate the structural and subsurface characteristics of an incipient open-system pingo actively emitting methane within the glacio-isostatically uplifting fjord valley of Adventdalen, Svalbard. Wavefront inversion of seismic refractions delineate a spatially heterogeneous active layer, whilst deeper reflections identify the lithological boundaries between marine sediments and underlying shales at ∼68 m depth (p-wave velocity of ∼1,790 ms−1). Low geometric mean inverted resistivities of 40–150 Ωm highlight the dominance of saline permafrost, whilst elevated resistivities (∼2 kΩm) occur close to the groundwater spring and in heaved areas around the pingo. Based on our results, we speculate that segregation ice dominates the pingo structure, given the absence of a notable resistivity contrast characteristic of injection ice that is typically expected within early open-system pingo formation, and provides the most plausible geomorphic agent within the local fine-grained sedimentology. Our results thereby indicate that sediment grain size and moisture availability can provide important controls on pingo formation. This study shows that open-system pingos in coastal, saline permafrost environments may form differently, with implications for localized permafrost structure, its permeability to underlying gas reservoirs and consequent methane release.
Keywords: open-system pingo; electrical resistivity tomography; seismic reflection; seismic refraction; permafrost; methane release
College: College of Science
Funders: Swansea University College of Science Research Fund. Grant Number: N/A; Near Surface Geophysics Group of the Geological Society of London's Postgraduate Fieldwork Fund. Grant Number: N/A; Research Council of Norway. Grant Numbers: 223259, 294764
Issue: 3