University of Oulu

P Ala-Aho et al 2021 Environ. Res. Lett. 16 043008.

What conditions favor the influence of seasonally frozen ground on hydrological partitioning? : a systematic review

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Author: Ala-Aho, P1; Autio, A1; Bhattacharjee, J1;
Organizations: 1Water, Energy and Environmental Engineering Research Unit, University of Oulu, PO Box 4300, 90014 Oulu, Finland
2Freshwater Centre, Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE), Paavo Havaksen tie 3, Oulu FI-90570, Finland
3Structures and Construction Technology Research Unit, University of Oulu, PO Box 4300, 90014 Oulu, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 3.5 MB)
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Language: English
Published: IOP Publishing, 2021
Publish Date: 2021-04-19


The influence of seasonally frozen ground (SFG) on water, energy, and solute fluxes is important in cold climate regions. The hydrological role of permafrost is now being actively researched, but the influence of SFG has received less attention. Intuitively, SFG restricts (snowmelt) infiltration, thereby enhancing surface runoff and decreasing soil water replenishment and groundwater recharge. However, the reported hydrological effects of SFG remain contradictory and appear to be highly site- and event-specific. There is a clear knowledge gap concerning under what physiographical and climate conditions SFG is more likely to influence hydrological fluxes. We addressed this knowledge gap by systematically reviewing published work examining the role of SFG in hydrological partitioning. We collected data on environmental variables influencing the SFG regime across different climates, land covers, and measurement scales, along with the main conclusion about the SFG influence on the studied hydrological flux. The compiled dataset allowed us to draw conclusions that extended beyond individual site investigations. Our key findings were: (a) an obvious hydrological influence of SFG at small-scale, but a more variable hydrological response with increasing scale of measurement, and (b) indication that cold climate with deep snow and forest land cover may be related to reduced importance of SFG in hydrological partitioning. It is thus increasingly important to understand the hydrological repercussions of SFG in a warming climate, where permafrost is transitioning to seasonally frozen conditions.

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Series: Environmental research letters
ISSN: 1748-9326
ISSN-E: 1748-9326
ISSN-L: 1748-9326
Volume: 16
Issue: 4
Article number: 043008
DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/abe82c
Type of Publication: A2 Review article in a scientific journal
Field of Science: 218 Environmental engineering
Funding: This research was supported by the Academy of Finland, Grant No. 316349 and University of Oulu KVANTUM institute.
Academy of Finland Grant Number: 316349
Detailed Information: 316349 (Academy of Finland Funding decision)
Dataset Reference: The data that support the findings of this study are openly available from IDA research data storage at the following URL/DOI:
Copyright information: © 2021 The Author(s). Published by IOP Publishing Ltd. Original content from this work may be used under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 licence. Any further distribution of this work must maintain attribution to the author(s) and the title of the work, journal citation and DOI.