Quantification of Arctic Soil and Permafrost Properties Using Ground Penetrating Radar and Electrical Resistivity Tomography Datasets

Improved quantification of Arctic soil and permafrost properties.

The Science

The research team developed an approach to improve the estimation of ice-wedge dimension and other permafrost characteristics by integrating various geophysical imaging techniques including ground penetrating radar (GPR) and electrical resistivity tomography (ERT).

The Impact

Improving understanding of Arctic ecosystem climate feedback and parameterization of models that simulate freeze-thaw dynamics requires advances in quantifying soil and snow properties This work enables a better understanding and quantification of the morphology and physical properties of ice-wedges and permafrost present in Arctic tundra.


The team document for the first time that GPR data collected during the frozen season, when conditions lead to improved GPR signal-to-noise ratio, can provide reliable estimates of active layer thickness and geometry of ice wedges. They find that the ice-wedge geometry extracted from GPR data collected during the frozen season is consistent with ERT data, and that GPR data can be used to constrain the ERT inversion. Consistent with recent studies, they also find that GPR data collected during the frozen season can provide good estimates of snow thickness, and that GPR data collected during the growing season can provide reliable estimate thaw depth. Quantification of the value of the GPR and ERT data collected by the team during growing and frozen seasons paves the way for coupled inversion of the datasets to improve understanding of permafrost variability.

Principal Investigator(s)

Stan D. Wullschleger
Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Susan Hubbard
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL)


The Next-Generation Ecosystem Experiments (NGEE)–Arctic project is supported by the Office of Biological and Environmental Research within the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science. This NGEE-Arctic research is supported through Contract No. DE-AC02-05CH11231 to Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.


Léger, E., Dafflon, B., Soom, F., Peterson, J., Ulrich, C., and Hubbard, S. “Quantification of Arctic soil and permafrost properties using ground-penetrating radar and electrical resistivity tomography datasets.” IEEE Journal of Selected Topics in Applied Earth Observations and Remote Sensing 10(10), 4348–4359 (2017). [DOI:10.1109/JSTARS.2017.2694447].