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The University of Southampton
Geography and Environmental Science

Research project: Thermokarst Lake Dynamics in the Arctic

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The proposed research integrates field studies in a range of disciplines (geomorphology, geophysics, paleoecology, hydrology, limnology) with process modeling of permafrost thaw, lake formation, carbon cycling, and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to understand how permafrost degradation in the Arctic, particularly thermokarst-lake (TKL) evolution, affects long-term atmospheric trace gas dynamics by releasing ancient carbon (C) stored in permafrost as carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4).

The overarching goals of the IPY/NSF solicitation are met in the short term (2007-2009), by (1) describing comprehensively the state of thermokarst (permafrost degradation) in Siberia and Alaska, (2) quantifying its impact on landscape configuration through the alteration of surface geomorphology and drainage patterns, (3) estimating its impacts on the C cycle via enhanced GHG (CO2, CH4) emissions, and (4) examining its potential to influence global climate -potential C release from thawing permafrost in Siberia alone totals >50% of the current atmospheric C burden. The IPY goals are met in the long term by establishing (1) a legacy of geographic, stratigraphic and process data from permafrost regions and data on thermokarst dynamics (past, present and future), (2) a working model of thermokarst processes, (3) scenarios of thermokarst-GHG emissions driven by climate change from the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) to the year 2200, and (4) an enhancement of collaborations within the Arctic Observing Network at observatories in North Siberia (Cherskii) and Alaska (Toolik Lake), and work with international collaborators at Bristol University (UK), the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research and the Max Planck Institute for Microbiology (both Germany) and the Permafrost Institute, Yakutsk (Russia). The project will be integrated with other IPY certified projects: "Permafrost Observatories: Thermal State of Permafrost (ID 50)", "Arctic Circum-Polar Coastal Observatory Network (ID 90)", and "Carbon Pools in Permafrost Regions (ID 373)".

Permafrost laboratory website

Related research groups

Palaeoenvironmental Laboratory at the University of Southampton (PLUS)

Key Publication

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