Friday, October 5th, 2012
Ice Wedge Polygons

Ice wedge polygons with their striking geometric appearance are one of the most common ground patterns in the lowlands of Alaska’s coastal plain. Individual polygons range from 15 to 150 feet in diameter and form as the result of winter freezing and spring thawing. At temperatures below 5°F, the soil becomes so brittle that it cracks as it contracts in response to cold temperatures. Come spring, meltwater fills these cracks and subsequently freezes into what are referred to as ice wedges. Year after year, the cracks increase in depth and diameter, and so do the ice wedges. From the air, tundra patterned in this manner resembles a cracked, dried-up mud puddle.

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