The Role of Massive Ice and Exposed Headwall Properties on Retrogressive Thaw Slump Activity

Samuel Hayes*, Michael Lim, Dustin Whalen, Paul J. Mann, Paul Fraser, Roger Penlington, James Martin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
4 Downloads (Pure)


Retrogressive Thaw Slumps (RTSs), a highly dynamic form of mass wasting, are accelerating geomorphic change across ice-cored permafrost terrain, yet the main controls on their activity are poorly constrained. Questions over the spatial variability of environmentally sensitive massive ice bodies and a paucity of high-spatial and temporal resolution topographic data have limited our ability to project their development and wider impacts. This research addresses these key problems by investigating RTS processes on Peninsula Point — a well-studied site for intrasedimental massive ice in the Western Canadian Arctic. Utilizing high-resolution topographic data from drone surveys in 2016, 2017 and 2018 we (1) measure the temporal and spatial variations in headwall properties and retreat rates, (2) determine the spatial pattern of subsurface layering using passive seismic monitoring and (3) combine these to analyse and contextualise the factors controlling headwall retreat rates. We find that headwall properties, namely massive ice and overburden thickness, are significant controls over rates of headwall retreat. Where persistent massive ice exposures are present inland of the headwall, regardless of thickness, and overburden thickness remains < 4 m, headwall retreat is typically more than double that of other headwalls. Furthermore, a 3D site model was created by combining photogrammetric and passive seismic data, highlighting internal layering variability and demonstrating the limitations of extrapolations of internal layering based on headwall exposures. These results provide fresh insights into the in-situ controls on headwall retreat rates and new approaches to understanding their variability.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2022JF006602
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface
Issue number11
Early online date18 Nov 2022
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2022


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