Permafrost may thaw faster than previously thought

A new article shows that accounting for thermokarst-inducing processes matter when predicting permafrost thawing. 

Eroding palsa in Finnmark

Photo by Sebastian Westermann

Permafrost stores a massive amount of carbon on the planet. Through global warming, permafrost can thaw and potentially release additional greenhouse gases which in turn will accelerate the climate crisis. 

When permafrost thaws, the landscape changes. The receding ice allows the ground to form depressions, which will turn into ponds and lakes. The structure and the processes that lead to the so-called Thermokarst landscape can also influence the future thawing processes themselves. 

A team of researchers from the PERMANOR project led by Sebastian Westermann developed numerical models that simulate the effect of Thermokarst processes on the thawing of the permafrost. And they find that even under a moderate warming scenario thawing could be three-fold higher than previously thought. 

These models can be integrated into climate models such as the NorESM to improve future climate predictions.


You can read the original scientific article here: Nitzbon, J., Westermann, S., Langer, M., Martin, LCP., Strauss, S., Laboor, S., Boike, J. 2020. Fast response of cold ice-rich permafrost in Northeast Siberia to a warming climate. Nature Communications, 11, Article number: 2201 (2020) DOI: 10.1038/s41467-020-15725-8. 

Or this excellent article about the research on Titan by Gunn Kristin Tjoflot in English and in Norwegian. 

Published May 13, 2020 10:09 AM - Last modified May 13, 2020 10:09 AM