Forecast of Permafrost Distribution, Temperature and Active Layer Thickness for Arctic National Parks of Alaska through 2100
Wednesday, 16 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
Though permafrost distribution, temperature and active layer thickness at high spatial resolution are needed to better model the ecosystem dynamics and biogeochemical processes including emission of greenhouse gases at regional and local scale, no such high-resolution permafrost map products existed for Arctic national parks of Alaska until recently. This was due to the lack of information about ecosystem properties such as soil and vegetation characteristics at high spatial resolution. In recent years, the National Park Service (NPS) has carried out several projects mapping ecotype and soil in the Arctic parks from Landsat satellite data at 28.5 m spatial resolution. We used these detailed ecotype and soil maps along with downscaled climate forcing from the IPCC and Climatic Research Unit, University of East Anglia (UK) to model near-surface permafrost distribution, temperature and active layer thickness at decadal time scale from the present through 2100 at 28.5 m resolution for the five Arctic national parks in Alaska: Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve, Noatak National Preserve, Kobuk Valley National Park, Cape Krusenstern National Monument, and Bering Land Bridge National Preserve. Our results suggest the near-surface permafrost distribution, i.e. permafrost immediately below the active layer, will likely decrease from the current 99% of the total park area (five parks combined) to 89% by 2050 and 36% by 2100. The near-surface permafrost will likely continue to exist in the northern half of the Gates of the Arctic and Kobuk Valley parks, and in majority of the Noatak preserves by 2100, though its temperature will be up to 5 °C warmer than the present at certain places. Taliks will likely occupy the ground below the active layer in rest of the park areas. These products fill an essential knowledge and data gap and complement research of other Arctic disciplines such as ecosystem modeling, hydrology and soil biogeochemistry. Also, these products enable the NPS personnel to identify geomorphic units vulnerable to climate change and incorporate that knowledge in making policy decisions about management of park resources and public use.