Northern landscapes and infrastructure are threatened by degrading permafrost. Areas underlain by ice-rich ground are particularly prone to terrain instability in the form of collapse and slumping. Current Earth System Model projections, however, do not account for thaw-induced terrain changes and associated subgrid processes. They thus cannot represent the impacts on and feedbacks with ecosystem functioning, hydrology and carbon turnover.
Towards our goal of predicting permafrost thaw dynamics, we will use targeted data collection that can feed into models to test the following hypothesis:
The speed and intensity of landscape-scale permafrost thaw are underestimated when abrupt thaw processes (with focus on subgrid-scale processes of subsidence, altered drainage and ecosystem responses) are not explicitly modelled.
The permafrost thaw action group will guide community-driven data acquisition and synthesis efforts across circum-Arctic gradients in permafrost and climate conditions. We strive to generate high-quality records of key variables such as snow depth and ground ice contents. The development and sharing of field and data protocols is central to our strategy.
Mackenzie Delta Uplands (image: Simon Zwieback)
Samoylov observatory, Lena River Delta (image: Peter Schreiber, 2018)