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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Computer modeling of temperature profiles in freezing ground Webb, Fern Marisa


Greater than 50% of the area of Canada is underlain by permafrost, a thermal condition defined by mean ground temperatures remaining below 0° for a minimum of two consecutive years. The condition of frozen ground bears on many aspects of northern ecology, climate, engineering and society. The temperature based definition of permafrost highlights that understanding the condition of permafrost requires understanding the temperature distribution and energy balance of the ground. Physically based numerical modeling of earth systems is a tool for understanding how past geoclimate conditions have produced current features, and how prospective changes in forcing might manifest future changes in landscape or climate. I have developed a numerical model to solve for a one-dimensional temperature distribution responding to time-dependent boundary conditions. Novel features of the model are a coordinate transformation which allows for a spatially mobile upper domain boundary, and a constituent mixture approach to define temperature dependent thermophysical soil properties. The model development is guided by a desire to minimize the stringency of input data requirements due to the sparse availability of quantitative information on soil properties and surface conditions. A variety of model applications are demonstrated using synthetic simulations and real world data.

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