Sciences in Cold and Arid Regions ›› 2021, Vol. 13 ›› Issue (2): 107-122.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1226.2021.20027

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Permafrost distribution and temperature in the Elkon Horst, Russia

Mikhail Zhelezniak1,QingBai Wu2,Anatolii Kirillin1,Zhi Wen2,Aleksandr Zhirkov1(),Vladimir Zhizhin1   

  1. 1.Melnikov Permafrost Institute SB RAS, Yakutsk 677000, Russia
    2.State Key Laboratory of Frozen Soil Engineering, Northwest Institute of Eco-Environment and Resources, CAS, Lanzhou, Gansu 730000, China
  • Received:2020-05-06 Accepted:2020-10-21 Online:2021-04-30 Published:2021-05-11
  • Contact: Aleksandr Zhirkov


The Elkon Horst is a geological structure that consists of heterogeneous strata with highly variable geocryological and temperature conditions. Gaining accurate knowledge of permafrost distribution patterns within this structure is of both scientific and practical importance. In mountainous terrain, the ground thermal regime is controlled by both surface and subsurface conditions. Surface conditions include snow cover characteristics, the presence or absence of vegetation, vegetation density, etc.. In contrast, subsurface conditions involve rock lithology or petrography, density, quantity and depth of fissures, groundwater, etc.. This article examines ground thermal regimes in various geomorphological settings based on temperature measurement data from geotechnical boreholes. The occurrence and extent of permafrost were evaluated for the entire horst area using direct and indirect methods. The maximum permafrost thickness measured in the Elkon Horst is 330 m, and the estimated maximum is 450 m at higher elevations. Thermophysical properties were determined for the major rock types, and the geothermal heat flux was estimated for the study area. The thermal conductivities were found to vary from 1.47 to 4.20 W/(m·K), and the dry bulk densities to range between 2,236 kg/m3 and 3,235 kg/m3. The average geothermal heat flux was estimated to be 44 mW/m2.

Key words: permafrost, ground temperature, geothermal heat flux, thermal conductivity, horst

Figure 1

Location of the study area"

Table 1

Climatic characteristics of the Elkon Horst"

Climate zoneDescriptionTotal solar radiation, kcal/(cm2?a)Mean annual difference between precipitation and evaporation, mmSum of air temperatures >10 °С
East Siberian Continental Climate

moderately humid,

moderately warm

80-110-200 to +200800-1,100

Table 2

Location and site information of thermal boreholes in the Elkon Horst"

No.Borehole IDBorehole depth (m)


Longitude; Latitude

Elevation (m a.s.l.)Setting
1KCC 1321058°37'N; 126°20'E1,050southeast-facing slope
2KCC 1125058°39'N; 126°16'E910upper part of the east-facing slope
3KCC 925058°39'N; 126°16'E912northwest-facing slope
4KCC 810058°40'N; 126°15'E607foot of the southeast-facing slope
5KCC 78058°40'N; 126°15'E613foot of the southeast-facing slope
6KCC 410058°41'N; 126°10'E1,004watershed
7KCC 215058°40'N; 126°15'E602foot of the southeast-facing slope
811 E1358°38'N; 126°16'E988watershed
92831058°38'N; 126°20'E896southeast-facing slope
10SG-7N2058°41'N; 126°8'E580valley
112461058°37'N; 126°20'E1,066upper part of the north-facing slope
122991058°38'N; 126°20'E925southeast-facing slope
1312E1958°38'N; 126°16'E1,034northwest-facing slope
1421E5058°39'N; 126°22'E801northwest-facing slope
1524E1058°38'N; 126°23'E843northwest-facing slope
1628E26058°38'N; 126°18'E1,040north-facing slope
1734E9058°48'N; 126°13'E454northwest-facing slope
1837E15058°39'N; 126°15'E600valley
192N18058°41'N; 126° 8'E552valley
20KCC 57058°40'N; 126°12'E674valley

Figure 2

Principle of optical scanning"

Figure 3

Amounts of summer precipitation in 2007-2019"

Figure 4

Location map of the boreholes"

Figure 5

Summer and winter conditions near borehole KCC 8"

Figure 6

Ground temperatures within the depth of annual temperature fluctuations at the watershed site (borehole 2216), north-facing slope (borehole 246), and northwest-facing slope (borehole KCC 9)"

Figure 7

Ground temperatures in the annual temperature fluctuation layer of an east-facing slope (borehole KCC11) and a southeast-facing slope (borehole KCC13)"

Figure 8

Ground temperatures in the annual temperature fluctuation layer of river valley sites (boreholes SG-7N and KCC 8)"

Figure 9

Ground temperatures in the watersheds and upper slopes (boreholes 2215 and 2216)"

Figure 10

Ground temperatures in the lower slopes of western and northern exposure (boreholes KCC 8 and KCC 11)"

Figure 11

Geothermal cross-section for the eastern part of the Elkon Horst"

Figure 12

Permafrost map of the Elkon Horst"

Figure 13

Temperature profiles in boreholes on the N and NW-facing slopes"

Figure 14

Temperature profiles in boreholes on the E and SE-facing slopes"

Table 3

The range (numerator) and means (denominator) of thermophysical properties of igneous and metamorphic rocks in the Elkon Horst"

Rock typeγwl (kg/m3)λ (W/(m·K))сγ (kJ/(m3·K))а×(10-6 m2/s)
Crystal shale2,670-3,0902,860(41)1.65-6.642.20(41)2,100-2,4302,240(43)0.75-3.070.97(43)
Tectonic breccia with carbonate cement2,290-2,7202,500(7)1.40-3.091.95(7)1,800-2,1401,970(7)0.73-1.460.98(7)
Syenite porphyry2,580-2,6502,610(2)1.75-2.071.91(2)2,030-2,0902,060(2)0.86-0.990.92(2)
Quartz-microcline veins in plagioclase with amphibole-pyrrhotite inclusions2,710-3,0502,880(2)1.96-2.432.19(2)2,140-2,4002,270(3)0.82-1.140.98(3)
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