EGU General Assembly 2022
© Author(s) 2022. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

In-situ measurements of sediment temperature under shallow water bodies in Arctic environments

Frederieke Miesner1, William Cable1, Julia Boike1,2, and Pier Paul Overduin1
Frederieke Miesner et al.
  • 1Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, Potsdam, Germany
  • 2Department of Geography, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Berlin, Germany

The thermal regime under lakes, ponds, and shallow near shore zones in permafrost zones in the Arctic is predominantly determined by the temperature of the overlying water body throughout the year.   Where the temperatures of the water are warmer than the air, unfrozen zones within the permafrost, called taliks, can form below the water bodies.

However, the presence of bottom-fast ice can decrease the mean annual bed temperature in shallow water bodies and significantly slow down the thawing or even refreeze the lake or sea bed in winter. Small changes in water level have the potential to drastically alter the sub-bed thermal regime between permafrost-thawing and permafrost-forming. The temperature regime of lake sediments is a determining factor in the microbial activity that makes their taliks hot spots of methane gas emission. Measurements of the sediment temperature below shallow water bodies are scarce, and single temperature-chains in boreholes are not sufficient to map spatial variability.

We present a new device to measure in-situ temperature-depth profiles in saturated soils or sediments, adapting the functionality of classic Bullard-type heat flow probes to the special requirements of the Arctic. The measurement setup consists of 30 equally spaced (5cm) digital temperature sensors housed in a 1.5 m stainless steel lance. The lance is portable and can be pushed into the sediment by hand either from a wading position, a small boat or through a hole in the ice during the winter. Measurements are taken continuously and 15 minutes in the sediment are sufficient to acquire in-situ temperatures within the accuracy of the sensors (0.01K after calibration at 0°C). The spacing of the sensors yield a detailed temperature-depth-profile of the near-surface sediments, where small-scale changes in the bottom water changes dominate the temperature field of the sediment. The short time needed for a single measurement allows for fine-meshed surveys of the sediment in areas of interest, such as the transition zone from bottom-fast to free water.


Test campaigns in the Canadian Arctic and on Svalbard have proven  the device to be robust in a range of environments. We present data acquired during winter and summer, covering non-permafrost, thermokarst lake and offshore measurements.

How to cite: Miesner, F., Cable, W., Boike, J., and Overduin, P. P.: In-situ measurements of sediment temperature under shallow water bodies in Arctic environments, EGU General Assembly 2022, Vienna, Austria, 23–27 May 2022, EGU22-7154,, 2022.

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