Physical sciences, Earth sciences

A better understanding of permafrost

An EU funded PAGE21 project aims to understand the interactions between the global climate system and the frozen ground. It quantifies the permafrost thaw, measures the carbon and nitrogen emissions from permafrost zones and investigates emissions’ effects on climate change.

About a quarter of the Northern Hemisphere is classified as permafrost – permanently frozen ground. Due to climate change, the organic material currently frozen in permafrost will start to decay releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. This so called “permafrost carbon feedback” process has a potential of having a severe impact on global climate change.

The PAGE21 (Changing permafrost in the Arctic and its global effects in the 21st century) project is improving understanding of the physical and biogeochemical processes at work in permafrost areas. This knowledge will be used to improve global climate models and to provide more accurate future climate projections.

PAGE21 is conducting field studies in the Arctic to determine the size of permafrost carbon and nitrogen pools and their vulnerability to climate change. The project uses ice cores and borehole data to assess ground ice volume, ground heat and surface energy balance. Researchers also measured water, carbon dioxide and methane fluxes using sensor towers.

These measurements are combined with satellite data at local and regional scales in order to attain more accurate picture of the permafrost thaw and to create detailed geomorphological maps on distribution of organic matter.

The combined high-quality data sets are shared with international databases like PANGAEA and the European Fluxnet. In addition, a new database, under the auspices of the Global Terrestrial Network for permafrost (GTN-P) has been created to host internationally collected datasets on permafrost surface temperature, ground temperature, active layer thickness, surface soil moisture, air temperature and surface temperature.

PAGE21's legacy will be improved model outputs including permafrost processes which will further our understanding of the key mechanisms and parameters that determine the vulnerability of Arctic permafrost to climate change.

last modification: 2015-09-22 15:58:04

Study in Poland