Permafrost carbon feedback (PCF) modeling has focused on gradual thaw of near-surface permafrost leading to enhanced carbon dioxide and methane emissions that accelerate global climate warming. These state-of-the-art land models have yet to incorporate deeper, abrupt thaw in the PCF. Here we use model data, supported by field observations, radiocarbon dating, and remote sensing, to show that methane and carbon dioxide emissions from abrupt thaw beneath thermokarst lakes will more than double radiative forcing from circumpolar permafrost-soil carbon fluxes this century. Abrupt thaw lake emissions are similar under moderate and high representative concentration pathways (RCP4.5 and RCP8.5), but their relative contribution to the PCF is much larger under the moderate warming scenario. Abrupt thaw accelerates mobilization of deeply frozen, ancient carbon, increasing 14C-depleted permafrost soil carbon emissions by ~125-190% compared to gradual thaw alone. These findings demonstrate the need to incorporate abrupt thaw processes in earth system models for more comprehensive projection of the PCF this century.
Warming in the Arctic has been much faster than the rest of the world in both observations and model simulations, a phenomenon known as the Arctic amplification (AA) whose cause is still under debate. By analyzing data and model simulations, here we show that large AA occurs only from October to April and only over areas with significant sea-ice loss. AA largely disappears when Arctic sea ice is fixed or melts away. Periods with larger AA are associated with larger sea-ice loss, and models with bigger sea-ice loss produce larger AA. Increased outgoing longwave radiation and heat fluxes from the newly opened waters cause AA, whereas all other processes can only indirectly contribute to AA by melting sea-ice. We conclude that sea-ice loss is necessary for the existence of large AA and that models need to simulate Arctic sea ice realistically in order to correctly simulate Arctic warming under increasing CO2.
Concludes in part:
In Alaska, Western Canada, and Eastern Russia average winter temperatures have increased as much as 4 to 7Â°F (3-4Â°C) in the past 50 years and are projected to rise 7-13Â°F (4-7Â°C) over the next 100 years.
Arctic sea ice during the summer is projected to decline by at least 50 percent by the end of this century with some models showing near-complete disappearance of summer sea ice. This is likely to have devastating consequences for some arctic animal species such as ice-living seals and for local people for whom these animals are a primary food source. At the same time, reduced sea ice extent is likely to increase marine access to some of the region's resource
The migratory tundra caribou herds in North America follow decadal population cycles, and browsing from abundant caribou could be expected to counteract the current climate-driven expansion of shrubs in the circumpolar tundra biome. We demonstrate that the sea ice cover in the Arctic Ocean has provided a strong signal for climate-induced changes on the adjacent caribou summer ranges, outperforming other climate indices in explaining the caribou-plant dynamics. We found no evidence of a negative effect of caribou abundance on vegetation biomass. On the contrary, we found a strong bottom-up effect in which a warmer climate related to diminishing sea ice has increased the plant biomass on the summer pastures, along with a paradoxical decline in caribou populations. This result suggests that this climate-induced greening has been accompanied by a deterioration of pasture quality. The shrub expansion in Arctic North America involves plant species with strong antibrowsing defenses. Our results might therefore be an early signal of a climate-driven shift in the caribou-plant interaction from a system with low plant biomass modulated by cyclic caribou populations to a system dominated by nonedible shrubs and diminishing herds of migratory caribou.
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Cites: Nat Commun. 2013;4:2514 PMID 24084589
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Cites: Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2005 Sep 20;102(38):13521-5 PMID 16174745