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The Mechanisms and Effects of Frost Heave

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The Mechanisms and Effects of Frost Heave


Frost heave is the increase in volume experienced by soils when they freeze. Water moves to the upper horizons from below; when it freezes it forms segregated ice lenses which push apart the soil around them as they grow, causing the observed volume increase. Frost heave has a number of effects upon the soil and upon structures supported by the soil which make it an important process to understand.


During the freezing of some soils, nearly pure ice forms in segregated lenses parallel to soil isotherms (Hillel, 1980). The formation of these lenses causes frost heave, a phenomenon in which the surface of the soil is "heaved" vertically by as much as several tens of centimeters. The overall volume of the soil also increases greatly, and heave pressures of many atmospheres can build up (Mitchell, 1993). Frost heave often causes substantial soil disruption (cryoturbation) as well as damage to roads, fence posts, foundations, plants, and other structures within and on top of the soil. In this paper I will exami...

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...y & Sons, 481 p.

Dash, J.G., 1989, Thermonuclear Pressure in Surface Melting: Motivation for Frost Heave: Science, v. 246, p. 1591-1593.

Durbin, Steve, Personal Communication on 10/12/96.

Hillel, Daniel, 1980, Applications in Soil Physics: New York, Academic Press, Inc., 385 p.

Mitchell, James K., 1993, Fundamentals of Soil Behavior: New York, John Wiley & Sons, 543 p.

Smith, M.W., 1985, Observations of soil freezing and frost heave at Inuvik, Northwest Territories, Canada: Canadian Journal of Earth Science, v. 223, p. 283-290.

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