University of Oulu

Peng, X., Zhang, T., Frauenfeld, O. W., Mu, C., Wang, K., Wu, X., et al. (2023). Active layer thickness and permafrost area projections for the 21st century. Earth's Future, 11, e2023EF003573.

Active layer thickness and permafrost area projections for the 21st century

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Author: Peng, Xiaoqing1,2; Zhang, Tingjun1,2; Frauenfeld, Oliver W.3;
Organizations: 1Key Laboratory of Western China’s Environmental Systems (Ministry of Education), College of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Lanzhou University, Lanzhou, China
2Observation and Research Station on Eco-Environment of Frozen Ground in the Qilian Mountains, Lanzhou University, Lanzhou, China
3Department of Geography, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX, USA
4School of Geographic Sciences, East China Normal University, Shanghai, China
5Cryosphere Research Station on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, State Key Laboratory of Cryospheric Science, Northwest Institute of Eco-Environment and Resources, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Lanzhou, China
6Nansen-Zhu International Research Centre, Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China
7State Key Laboratory of Frozen Soil Engineering, Northwest Institute of Eco-Environment and Resources, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Lanzhou, China
8Geography Research Unit, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
9Department of Geosciences and Geography, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 3.1 MB)
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Language: English
Published: John Wiley & Sons, 2023
Publish Date: 2023-09-27


Permafrost warming leads to greenhouse gas release to the atmosphere, resulting in a positive feedback to climate change. Earth >system models indicate that more than 80% of the near-surface permafrost is projected to disappear by the end of this century, but with a high degree of uncertainty. Here, we apply the Stefan solution to estimate permafrost degradation under future emission scenarios. We find that the most severe future scenario is likely to lead to only a 14% decrease in area extent of the near-surface permafrost at 3.5 m depth, and an area extent decrease of 1.3% at a depth of 6.0 m. Relative to active layer thickness increases from historical simulations, we find a less than 30% deepening for most permafrost regions by the end of this century. These results imply that the Stefan solution provides near-surface permafrost area extent degradation estimates that are substantially lower than directly projected by models.

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Series: Earth's future
ISSN: 2328-4277
ISSN-E: 2328-4277
ISSN-L: 2328-4277
Volume: 11
Issue: 8
Article number: e2023EF003573
DOI: 10.1029/2023EF003573
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 519 Social and economic geography
1172 Environmental sciences
Funding: Support for this study came from the National Key R&D Program of China (2019YFA0607003), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grants 42161160328, 42171120, 41941015, 32061143032), the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities (lzujbky-2021-72, lzujbky-2023-eyt01), and the Academy of Finland (Grants 315519, 307761).
Academy of Finland Grant Number: 315519
Detailed Information: 315519 (Academy of Finland Funding decision)
Copyright information: © 2023 The Authors. Earth's Future published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of American Geophysical Union. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License, which permits use and distribution in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non-commercial and no modifications or adaptations are made.