Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Dr. Robert A. Schincariol


The effect of freezing on soil temperature and water redistribution was examined in four Mesocosms maintained at different initial water content profiles. An innovative experimental setup involving use of a frozen base layer acting as a proxy to permafrost beneath an active layer made up of packed and undisturbed peat cores was used. The experimental setup was successfully validated for its ability to maintain one dimensional change in temperature and soil water content in frozen soil. There was a substantial amount of water redistribution towards the freezing front, enough to create an impermeable frozen, saturated zone within 15 cm of the soil surface. The water movement was likely due to the potential head gradients between colder and warmer regions created by temperature effects on matric potential of frozen soil. In addition, there is enough evidence that water migration in form of vapour contributed to moisture movement towards the freezing front. Initial moisture profiles appeared to have a significant effect on the freezing induced soil water redistribution likely through differences in moisture dependant hydraulic conductivity. Initial soil moisture profiles also affected the rate of freezing front movement. Frost propagation was controlled by latent heat for long periods, while soil thermal conductivity and heat capacity appeared to control the rate of frost migration once the majority of water was frozen. Using the observations of this study, a conceptual model was proposed to explain freezing of an active layer on a permafrost plateau assuming a variable moisture landscape at onset of winter.

Further, a one-dimensional model based on coupled cellular automata approach was developed. The model is based on first order conservation laws to simulate heat and water flow in variably-saturated soil. Inside the model, Buckingham-Darcy’s -and Fourier’s heat laws are used to define the local interactions for water and heat movement respectively. Phase change is brought about by the residual energy after sensible heat removal has dropped the temperature of the system below freezing point. Knowing the amount of water that can freeze, the change in soil temperature is then modeled by integrating along the soil freezing curve. This approach obviates the use of apparent heat capacity term. The 1D model is successfully tested by comparing with analytical and experimental solutions.