Frozen Flume

After a lot of hard work to scale the thermal and hydraulic properties of the permafrost flume experiments, we finally have a setup that we are happy with! Rivers are typically nearly flat, so we had to make small adjustments to the channel slope, width, and our methods for building to bank that had big impacts on the experimental behavior. This iteration in setting up the experiment was important to make sure we hit the target conditions to test our numerical model of permafrost bank erosion. Over the summer, I ran a couple of experiments at different water temperatures with the help of lab manager Kim Litwin Miller and my amazing summer student, Maria Schmeer.

10 second timelapse looking down on the flume experiment as the frozen bank erodes.

We use water dyed blue flowing left to right and erode out an array of temperature sensors, which you can see attached to the red wiring. Periodically, a cart containing a sonar and laser to scan the water surface slope and bed topography passes over the experiment on the metal rails.

10 second timelapse showing the setup and operation of the experiment

The experiment is quite labor-intensive to set up and run, and in the background you can see Maria changing the water discharge while I make observations and take photos in the foreground. Kim is not visible, but she is operating the cart remotely throughout the experiment. In future experiments, we hope to explore a wider range of conditions to better understand how permafrost rivers respond to seasonal, inter-annual and long-term variations in Arctic hydrology.