Langer, Moritz; Nitzbon, Jan; Groenke, Brian; Assmann, Lisa-Marie; Schneider von Deimling, Thomas; Stuenzi, Simone Maria; Westermann, Sebastian

Understanding the future evolution of permafrost requires a better understanding of its climatological past. This requires permafrost models to efficiently simulate the thermal dynamics of permafrost over the past centuries to millennia, taking into account highly uncertain soil and snow properties. In this study, we present a computationally efficient numerical permafrost model which satisfactorily reproduces the current ground temperatures and active layer thicknesses of permafrost in the Arctic and their trends over recent centuries. The performed simulations provide insights into the evolution of permafrost since the 18th century and show that permafrost on the North American continent is subject to early degradation, while permafrost on the Eurasian continent is relatively stable over the investigated 300-year period. Permafrost warming since industrialization has occurred primarily in three “hotspot” regions in northeastern Canada, northern Alaska, and, to a lesser extent, western Siberia. We find that the extent of areas with a high probability (inline-formulap3 m>0.9) of near-surface permafrost (i.e., inline-formula3 m of permafrost within the upper inline-formula10 m of the subsurface) has declined substantially since the early 19th century, with loss accelerating during the last 50 years. Our simulations further indicate that short-term climate cooling due to large volcanic eruptions in the Northern Hemisphere in some cases favors permafrost aggradation within the uppermost inline-formula10 m of the ground, but the effect only lasts for a relatively short period of a few decades. Despite some limitations, e.g., with respect to the representation of vegetation, the presented model shows great potential for further investigation of the climatological past of permafrost, especially in conjunction with paleoclimate modeling.

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Langer, Moritz / Nitzbon, Jan / Groenke, Brian / et al: The evolution of Arctic permafrost over the last 3 centuries from ensemble simulations with the CryoGridLite permafrost model. 2024. Copernicus Publications.

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