High potential for loss of permafrost landforms in a changing climate

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Karjalainen , O , Luoto , M , Aalto , J , Etzelmuller , B , Grosse , G , Jones , B M , Lilleoren , K S & Hjort , J 2020 , ' High potential for loss of permafrost landforms in a changing climate ' , Environmental Research Letters , vol. 15 , no. 10 , 104065 . https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/abafd5

Title: High potential for loss of permafrost landforms in a changing climate
Author: Karjalainen, Olli; Luoto, Miska; Aalto, Juha; Etzelmuller, Bernd; Grosse, Guido; Jones, Benjamin M.; Lilleoren, Karianne S.; Hjort, Jan
Contributor organization: Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science (HELSUS)
BioGeoClimate Modelling Lab
Department of Geosciences and Geography
Institute of Biotechnology (-2009)
Division of Urban Geography and Regional Studies
Date: 2020-10
Language: eng
Number of pages: 13
Belongs to series: Environmental Research Letters
ISSN: 1748-9326
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/abafd5
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10138/320838
Abstract: The presence of ground ice in Arctic soils exerts a major effect on permafrost hydrology and ecology, and factors prominently into geomorphic landform development. As most ground ice has accumulated in near-surface permafrost, it is sensitive to variations in atmospheric conditions. Typical and regionally widespread permafrost landforms such as pingos, ice-wedge polygons, and rock glaciers are closely tied to ground ice. However, under ongoing climate change, suitable environmental spaces for preserving landforms associated with ice-rich permafrost may be rapidly disappearing. We deploy a statistical ensemble approach to model, for the first time, the current and potential future environmental conditions of three typical permafrost landforms, pingos, ice-wedge polygons and rock glaciers across the Northern Hemisphere. We show that by midcentury, the landforms are projected to lose more than one-fifth of their suitable environments under a moderate climate scenario (RCP4.5) and on average around one-third under a very high baseline emission scenario (RCP8.5), even when projected new suitable areas for occurrence are considered. By 2061-2080, on average more than 50% of the recent suitable conditions can be lost (RCP8.5). In the case of pingos and ice-wedge polygons, geographical changes are mainly attributed to alterations in thawing-season precipitation and air temperatures. Rock glaciers show air temperature-induced regional changes in suitable conditions strongly constrained by topography and soil properties. The predicted losses could have important implications for Arctic hydrology, geo- and biodiversity, and to the global climate system through changes in biogeochemical cycles governed by the geomorphology of permafrost landscapes. Moreover, our projections provide insights into the circumpolar distribution of various ground ice types and help inventory permafrost landforms in unmapped regions.
Subject: permafrost
climate change
ground ice
environmental change
environmental space
statistical ensemble modelling
1172 Environmental sciences
Peer reviewed: Yes
Rights: cc_by
Usage restriction: openAccess
Self-archived version: publishedVersion

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