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Simulated Historical (1901–2010) Changes in the Permafrost Extent and Active Layer Thickness in the Northern Hemisphere[2017-12-31]
A growing body of simulation research has considered the dynamics of permafrost, which has an important role in the climate system of a warming world. Previous studies have concentrated on the future degradation of permafrost based on global climate models (GCMs) or data from GCMs. An accurate estimation of historical changes in permafrost is required to understand the relations between changes in permafrost and the Earth’s climate and to validate the results from GCMs. Using the Community Land Model 4.5 driven by the Climate Research Unit -National Centers for Environmental Prediction (CRUNCEP) atmospheric data set and observations of changes in soil temperature and active layer thickness and present-day areal extent of permafrost, this study investigated the changes in permafrost in the Northern Hemisphere from 1901 to 2010. The results showed that the model can reproduce the interannual variations in the observed soil temperature and active layer thickness. The simulated area of present-day permafrost fits well with observations, with a bias of 2.02 × 106 km2. The area of permafrost decreased by 0.06 (0.62) × 106 km2 decade1 from 1901 to 2009 (1979 to 2009). A clear decrease in the area of permafrost was found in response to increases in air temperatures during the period from about the 1930s to the 1940s, indicating that permafrost is sensitive to even a temporary increase in temperature. From a regional perspective, high-elevation permafrost decreases at a faster rate than high-latitude permafrost; permafrost in China shows the fastest rate of decrease, followed by Alaska, Russia, and Canada. Discrepancies in the rate of decrease in the extent of permafrost among different regions were mostly linked to the sensitivity of permafrost in the regions to increases in air temperatures rather than to the amplitude of the increase in air temperatures. An increase in the active layer thickness of 0.009 (0.071) m decade1 was shown during the period of 1901–2009 (1979–2009). These results are useful in understanding the response of permafrost to a historical warming climate and for validating the results from GCMs.
Guo Donglin, Wang Huijun, 2017: Simulated historical (1901-2010) changes in the permafrost extent and active layer thickness in the Northern Hemisphere. Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, 122, 12285–12295.