Arctic greening thaws permafrost, boosts runoff

October 17, 2018, Los Alamos National Laboratory
NGEE-Arctic researchers from Los Alamos, University of Alaska Fairbanks and Oak Ridge National Laboratory dig deep snow pits in tall shrub patches to understand the warming effect of snow-shrub interactions on underlying permafrost. Credit: Los Alamos National Laboratory

A new collaborative study has investigated Arctic shrub-snow interactions to obtain a better understanding of the far north's tundra and vast permafrost system. Incorporating extensive in situ observations, Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists tested their theories with a novel 3-D computer model and confirmed that shrubs can lead to significant degradation of the permafrost layer that has remained frozen for tens of thousands of years. These interactions are driving increases in discharges of fresh water into rivers, lakes and oceans.

"The Arctic is actively greening, and shrubs are flourishing across the tundra. As insulating snow accumulates atop tall shrubs, it boosts significant ground warming," said Cathy Wilson, Los Alamos scientist on the project. "If the trend of increasing vegetation across the Arctic continues, we're likely to see a strong increase in degradation."

The team investigated interactions among shrubs, permafrost, and subsurface areas called taliks. Taliks are unfrozen ground near permafrost caused by a thermal or hydrological anomaly. Some tunnel-like taliks called "through taliks" extend over thick permafrost layers.

Results of the Los Alamos study published in Environmental Research Letters this week revealed that through taliks developed where snow was trapped, warmed the ground and created a pathway for water to flow through deep permafrost, significantly driving thawing and likely increasing water and dissolved carbon flow to rivers, lakes and the ocean. Computer simulations also demonstrated that the thawed active layer was abnormally deeper near these through taliks, and that increased shrub growth exacerbates these impacts. Notably, the team subtracted warming trends from the weather data used to drive simulations, thereby confirming that the shrub-snow interactions were causing degradation even in the absence of warming.

The Los Alamos team and collaborators from the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science's Next-Generation Ecosystem Experiments Arctic program, which funds this project, used a new Los Alamos-developed fine-scale model, the Advanced Terrestrial Simulator (ATS). It incorporates soil physics and captures permafrost dynamics. The team repeatedly tested results against experimental data from Alaska's Seward Peninsula.

"These simulations of through talik formation provide clues as to why we're seeing an increase in winter discharge in the Arctic," said Los Alamos postdoctoral research associate Elchin Jafarov, first author on the paper.

This model is the first to show how snow and vegetation interact to impact permafrost hydrology with through talik formation on a slope—prevalent across Alaskan terrain. The team, including collaborators from Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the University of Alaska, investigated how quickly through taliks developed at different permafrost depths, their impact on hydrology and how they interrupted and altered continuous permafrost.

Explore further: Alaskan lake bed cores show expanding Arctic shrubs may slow erosion

More information: Elchin E Jafarov et al, Modeling the role of preferential snow accumulation in through talik development and hillslope groundwater flow in a transitional permafrost landscape, Environmental Research Letters (2018). DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/aadd30

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20 comments

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Thorium Boy
1.9 / 5 (9) Oct 17, 2018
I wish this was all true, not fiction. If it were, places like Greenland might be livable again. Crop seasons could be extended, more areas of land as a whole could become productive, which will be needed to FEED the number of people being born.
howhot3
4.2 / 5 (10) Oct 17, 2018
Thorium boy you are completely nuts! What you're saying is that you would like to see the rest of the world heating up for 5 degrees Celsius just so you can have a livable Greenland? What-who-why does that seem even reasonable to put the rest of the population in harm's way for your goddamn arrogance! This is what I hate about you climate deniers, you are all about yourself. You think you're so much smarter than everyone else. But you want to see Greenland melt and make it livable again so that you can get some satisfaction? Give me a break. 1 * for you.
24volts
1.8 / 5 (10) Oct 18, 2018
howhot3 , I'm not a climate denier and you are a complete idiot if you think the ice isn't going to melt and people won't be moving north. We are still coming out of an ice age and will be for another few thousand years. When it gets done there won't be any ice except on tall mountains. Antarctica will have people living on it and it will become a new country and not just a ice covered desert. The only person here showing any goddamn arrogance is you thinking that humans are going to be able to stop it. We might have sped up the process a little but we are NOT in control of the climate and never have been. Maybe in a few hundred years when science advances to a point where we might be able to have some control of the weather, we might be able to have some effect but at the moment people like you that think we do are simply dreaming.
rrwillsj
4 / 5 (5) Oct 18, 2018
hh3, you are wasting reasonable on bagboy. You are showing a remarkable generosity of a humane spirit to award he/she/it one star to that useless parasite on society,
Ojorf
3.4 / 5 (10) Oct 19, 2018
WTF 24v?
Bart_A
1.4 / 5 (9) Oct 19, 2018
Why are there so may climate deniers that deny any benefits of climate change? Why do they always picture change to mean death and destruction? We need a more balanced view.
granville583762
3 / 5 (6) Oct 19, 2018
The Arctic is actively greening, and shrubs are flourishing across the tundra. As insulating snow accumulates atop tall shrubs, it boosts significant ground warming

And Greenland once again will be Greenland
rrwillsj
5 / 5 (5) Oct 19, 2018
Yeah granny, that worked out so well for the Norse colonists, right?
Until it didn't and they ended in miserable starvation.

The entire concept of the "Black earth belt" was possible being located between the frozen arctic and the broiling equator.

Now the arctic zones are melting. The equatorial zone is expanding. The temperate zones are shrinking.

Have you figured yest how you intend to survive, perched on a greenland mountain top, trying to stay above the waves? Trying to grow enough food in less than six months, to get you through the dark half of the year?
antigoracle
1.5 / 5 (8) Oct 19, 2018
The astonishing bullshit of the AGW Cult and their Pathological "science". NASA squandered MILLIONS looking for permafrost thawing and got zilch.
Phyllis Harmonic
5 / 5 (5) Oct 19, 2018
Why are there so may climate deniers that deny any benefits of climate change? Why do they always picture change to mean death and destruction? We need a more balanced view.

What benefit?! You of all people are the least able to know a "balanced view", what with your incessant invocation of supernatural agency for all manner of cause and effect.
howhot3
5 / 5 (6) Oct 19, 2018
Here's the problem with you climate deniers, it's the fact that it's going to take the entire Globe to warm from fossil fuel combustion just so Greenland can melt! That's the pig-headed arrogance that comes from the poisoned minds of the industrialist that don't care about pollution. They don't care about the effects of pollution or changes in the environment at all on the human race or the planet and refuse reasonable changes in their methods of business. The fact that Greenland is ice is melting should horrify the climate deniers as much as it affects a scientist. The lack of inaction should be speaking volumes to you about what current leadership thanks of you.

Sad to say the lack of inaction seems to indicate they don't care much about anybody much less you climate deniers on phys org!
antigoracle
1 / 5 (5) Oct 20, 2018
Here's the problem with you climate deniers,..HAWW..HAWW..HEEE... entire Globe to warm from fossil fuel combustion ....... That's the pig-headed arrogance that comes from the poisoned minds of the industrialist that don't care about pollution. They don't care ....pollution...and refuse reasonable changes in their methods of business. .... horrify the climate deniers ... The lack of inaction should be speaking volumes to you.....

howhot3...aka...howSHAT Da Turd, brays again.

Here's the problem with this Chicken shit jackass. This jackass rode into NYC, spewing CO2 all the way, just to snort the methane emanating from the rectum of his False "Profit", Al Gore.
That's the pig-headed arrogance that comes from the Chicken shit mind of this jackass. He then brays at the heretics, pretending to care.
Hey jackass, since you care so much, please share, when and how you stopped burning fossil fuels, so that us heretics can join you in saving the world.
rrwillsj
5 / 5 (3) Oct 20, 2018
Oh auntieoral, as usual your fulminations confuse your delusions of intellect with remorseless reality.

The jackass is a fine and noble creature. So when you call honest commentators a jackass? You are too stupid to realize that you are actually complimenting them.

Which leaves you denier shills as the little plops of chickenshit.
SteveS
5 / 5 (5) Oct 20, 2018
Oh auntieoral, as usual your fulminations confuse your delusions of intellect with remorseless reality..


I long ago ignored antigoracle. S/he never discussed the science, just attacked the people commenting, the archetypal troll. Why does anybody engage anymore?
rrwillsj
3.3 / 5 (3) Oct 21, 2018
Steve, good question. "Why engage the trolls?"

For myself? It amuses me as they bend over, enticingly waving their shiny, punk butts. Begging me to apply a delicious caning.

They are masochist submissives playing the "naughty girl" seeking strict discipline from my firm hand as their "Big Daddy".

Now you may find this distasteful and of dubious social worth? Though your brief comment hints that you could learn the "Noble Art and Skill" of applying the lash?

However, this alluring dance between me and the little dears? Keeps suckering the pain-slut cultists back to this site. Preventing them from interfering with real scientists communicating with one another.

Plus their babbling commentaries are "thesis gold" for the students of the Mental Health and Social Sciences. Who do monitor this site.

Steve, you should thank me for my humble services at corralling these mindless trolls.
To minimize the damage they would cause to unprotected research programs.
antigoracle
1 / 5 (3) Oct 22, 2018
Oh auntieoral, as usual your fulminations confuse your delusions of intellect with remorseless reality..


I long ago HAWW,,,HAWW,,,HAWW... the science,...HEE...HEE..HAWW troll.

And, so another of the AGW Cult's Chicken Little Jackass brays. This jackass wouldn't recognize science even if it slapped it upside the head and rattled the Chicken shit between its ears.
rrwillsj
1 / 5 (1) Oct 22, 2018
See what I mean, Steve?

That "naughty girl" auntieoral is just begging to be pulled over my knees and his/her/its? crinoline pushed up and ruffled panties pulled down.

Demanding a flurry of spanks. And then "More, Sir? Puhleez? A dozen more! I have been such a veritable Baadd Ghurl."

Steve, How can I resist such an entreating plea from one of favorite trolls?

I am a Sadist but I hope that I am not any more cruel than absolutely needed to humor auntieorals festering psychosis as a pain-slut?
howhot3
5 / 5 (2) Oct 23, 2018
Hay @antialgoreacle, you're certainly not helping your cause. I mean all the chicken stuff is kind of funny, pretty pathetic, loser stuff, but you're not saying anything that we don't already know about you. I'm reminded of a famous quote from Dante's Inferno, " They yearn for what they fear for."
antigoracle
1 / 5 (2) Oct 24, 2018
Hay @antialgoreacle, you're certainly not helping your cause. I mean all the chicken stuff is kind of funny, pretty pathetic, loser stuff, but you're not saying anything that we don't already know about you. I'm reminded of a famous quote from Dante's Inferno, " They yearn for what they fear for."

Hay (<- LMAO) @howShat Da Turd, you're certainly not helping your cause. I mean all the Chicken shit braying stuff would be funny, if it weren't coming from a hypocrite, pretty pathetic, loser stuff, but you're not braying anything that we don't already know about you. I'm reminded of a famous quote....."They bray for what they fear for"....while creating it.
Keep burning fossil fuels and braying at the heretics. You'll save the world, jackass.
TrollBane
not rated yet Nov 17, 2018
Now don't go introducing rantigoracle to things like actual literature. His tiny malfunctioning brain couldn't handle it.

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