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Quantifying the role of cold season processes in vegetation-permafrost feedbacks – WINTERPROOF

Adventdalen, Svalbard, where temperatures have strongly increased in the past decade. Winters are rapidly warming across the Arctic, which has a strong impact on snow, vegetation, and permafrost. Photo: Carline Tromp

Adventdalen, Svalbard, where temperatures have strongly increased in the past decade. Winters are rapidly warming across the Arctic, which has a strong impact on snow, vegetation, and permafrost. Photo: Carline Tromp

About the project

Climate change has an amplified effect on the Arctic. The most northern part of our planet warms more than twice as fast as the rest of the world, especially in winter. Rapid winter warming impacts both permafrost and vegetation: higher temperatures will lead to the thaw of permafrost soils, while mid-winter warm spells melt away the protective snow cover which plants rely on to survive the long and harsh winters.

The cold season may contribute up to half of the yearly release of greenhouse gases from permafrost soils, and extreme winter events such as rain-on-snow or thaw-freeze events have increased in frequency. Damage from these events lowers the ability of plants to photosynthesize and remove CO2 from the atmosphere. Unfortunately, we do not know much about how these processes will develop in the future. The aim of this project  obtain more reliable projections on how arctic winter warming may impact climate feedbacks.

Objectives

In this research project, we will add important wintertime processes that affect vegetation and permafrost to computer models. The models we currently use to predict how the arctic responds to climate change are not built to accurately simulate the winter. In warmer parts of the globe, where winters are short, this may not represent a problem, but the arctic winter can last as long as nine months. When models are only correct for one quarter of the year, they will not be able to predict how climate feedbacks from the Arctic will develop in the future.

By introducing these new processes into the models, we can make better projections of how changing arctic winters may contribute to enhanced climate feedbacks. These results can be communicated to policy makers to inform them more accurately on the consequences of climate change on the Arctic and the rest of the world.

Financing

This project is financed for the period 2018 – 2022 through the FRINATEK program of the Norwegian Research Council under grant agreement 274711.

The project is funded in the category Young Research Talent.

Cooperation

This research is a collaboration among a number of national and international institutes:

Published Mar. 11, 2019 7:29 PM - Last modified Mar. 12, 2019 2:25 PM