2012:43 Technical Note, Literature review of groundwater flow in permafrost

The Swedish Radiation Safety Authority (SSM) assigned the task of compiling the state of the knowledge with respect to groundwater flow in permafrost conditions.  In particular, the study was to consider whether (i) the main processes related to groundwater flow in permafrost were understood, (ii) appropriate field data was available, and (iii) current models appropriately represent the conceptual models.  The study was to provide suggestions for future research related to groundwater flow in permafrost.  The intent of the study was to provide complementary information to work considered by the Swedish Nuclear Fuel and Waste Management Company (SKB) by identifying studies not directly related to SKB’s work but useful for understanding flow under permafrost conditions.

Literature searches were performed using the SCOPUS search engine, focusing on articles and review papers.  The searches identified a voluminous body of literature related to permafrost and groundwater.  The review focused on identifying studies that considered recharges to and discharges from subpermafrost groundwater in periglacial zones, as such studies most directly consider groundwater flow through permafrost.

Representative studies were identified in several categories, including modelling studies that focused on groundwater hydrology associated with (i) ice sheets, (ii) periglacial zones outside ice sheets, and (iii) suprapermafrost groundwater.  Modelling and field studies that considered open taliks (thawed conduits between subpermafrost groundwater and surface water bodies such as lakes and streams) were also identified, as well as studies with field observations that identified recharge occurring through continuous permafrost.