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Title: Predicting Climate Feedbacks and Impacts in the Terrestrial Arctic: IC Report

Authors:
 [1]
  1. Los Alamos National Lab. (LANL), Los Alamos, NM (United States)
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Los Alamos National Lab. (LANL), Los Alamos, NM (United States)
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE
OSTI Identifier:
1191115
Report Number(s):
LA-UR-15-25010
DOE Contract Number:
AC52-06NA25396
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
Environmental Sciences(54); Planetary Sciences

Citation Formats

Coon, Ethan. Predicting Climate Feedbacks and Impacts in the Terrestrial Arctic: IC Report. United States: N. p., 2015. Web. doi:10.2172/1191115.
Coon, Ethan. Predicting Climate Feedbacks and Impacts in the Terrestrial Arctic: IC Report. United States. doi:10.2172/1191115.
Coon, Ethan. Thu . "Predicting Climate Feedbacks and Impacts in the Terrestrial Arctic: IC Report". United States. doi:10.2172/1191115. https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/1191115.
@article{osti_1191115,
title = {Predicting Climate Feedbacks and Impacts in the Terrestrial Arctic: IC Report},
author = {Coon, Ethan},
abstractNote = {},
doi = {10.2172/1191115},
journal = {},
number = ,
volume = ,
place = {United States},
year = {Thu Jul 02 00:00:00 EDT 2015},
month = {Thu Jul 02 00:00:00 EDT 2015}
}

Technical Report:

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  • Regarding the Arctic Terrestrial Simulator (ATS), previous work solved integrated hydrology (coupled surface/subsurface flow) on multiple polygons, and surface flow over larger domains to guide landscape characterization. Solved thermal hydrology with freeze/thaw dynamics in three dimensions. Ongoing efforts apply state of the art thermal hydrology model to complex topography, and include mesh deformation processes.
  • Our overall goal is to quantify the potential for threshold changes in natural emission rates of trace gases, particularly methane and carbon dioxide, from pan-arctic terrestrial systems under the spectrum of anthropogenically-forced climate warming, and the conditions under which these emissions provide a strong feedback mechanism to global climate warming. This goal is motivated under the premise that polar amplification of global climate warming will induce widespread thaw and degradation of the permafrost, and would thus cause substantial changes to the landscape of wetlands and lakes, especially thermokarst (thaw) lakes, across the Arctic. Through a suite of numerical experiments thatmore » encapsulate the fundamental processes governing methane emissions and carbon exchanges – as well as their coupling to the global climate system - we intend to test the following hypothesis in the proposed research: There exists a climate warming threshold beyond which permafrost degradation becomes widespread and stimulates large increases in methane emissions (via thermokarst lakes and poorly-drained wetland areas upon thawing permafrost along with microbial metabolic responses to higher temperatures) and increases in carbon dioxide emissions from well-drained areas. Besides changes in biogeochemistry, this threshold will also influence global energy dynamics through effects on surface albedo, evapotranspiration and water vapor. These changes would outweigh any increased uptake of carbon (e.g. from peatlands and higher plant photosynthesis) and would result in a strong, positive feedback to global climate warming.« less
  • Our overall goal is to quantify the potential for threshold changes in natural emission rates of trace gases, particularly methane and carbon dioxide, from pan-arctic terrestrial systems under the spectrum of anthropogenically-forced climate warming, and the conditions under which these emissions provide a strong feedback mechanism to global climate warming. This goal is motivated under the premise that polar amplification of global climate warming will induce widespread thaw and degradation of the permafrost, and would thus cause substantial changes to the landscape of wetlands and lakes, especially thermokarst (thaw) lakes, across the Arctic. Through a suite of numerical experiments thatmore » encapsulate the fundamental processes governing methane emissions and carbon exchanges – as well as their coupling to the global climate system - we intend to test the following hypothesis in the proposed research: There exists a climate warming threshold beyond which permafrost degradation becomes widespread and stimulates large increases in methane emissions (via thermokarst lakes and poorly-drained wetland areas upon thawing permafrost along with microbial metabolic responses to higher temperatures) and increases in carbon dioxide emissions from well-drained areas. Besides changes in biogeochemistry, this threshold will also influence global energy dynamics through effects on surface albedo, evapotranspiration and water vapor. These changes would outweigh any increased uptake of carbon (e.g. from peatlands and higher plant photosynthesis) and would result in a strong, positive feedback to global climate warming.« less
  • Our overall goal in this research was to quantify the potential for threshold changes in natural emission rates of trace gases, particularly methane and carbon dioxide, from pan-arctic terrestrial systems under the spectrum of anthropogenically-forced climate warming, and the conditions under which these emissions provide a strong feedback mechanism to global climate warming. This goal was motivated under the premise that polar amplification of global climate warming will induce widespread thaw and degradation of the permafrost, and would thus cause substantial changes to the landscape of wetlands and lakes, especially thermokarst (thaw) lakes, across the Arctic. Through a suite ofmore » numerical experiments that encapsulate the fundamental processes governing methane emissions and carbon exchanges – as well as their coupling to the global climate system - we tested the following hypothesis in the proposed research: There exists a climate warming threshold beyond which permafrost degradation becomes widespread and stimulates large increases in methane emissions (via thermokarst lakes and poorly-drained wetland areas upon thawing permafrost along with microbial metabolic responses to higher temperatures) and increases in carbon dioxide emissions from well-drained areas. Besides changes in biogeochemistry, this threshold will also influence global energy dynamics through effects on surface albedo, evapotranspiration and water vapor. These changes would outweigh any increased uptake of carbon (e.g. from peatlands and higher plant photosynthesis) and would result in a strong, positive feedback to global climate warming. In collaboration with our Purdue and MIT colleagues, we have attempted to quantify global climate warming effects on land-atmosphere interactions, land-river network interactions, permafrost degradation, vegetation shifts, and land use influence water, carbon, and nitrogen fluxes to and from terrestrial ecosystems in the pan-arctic along with their uncertainties. Based on our study results along with a review of observed and projected climate changes in Northern Eurasia by others, we have also outlined a more integrated modelling approach that may be developed and applied in future studies to better capture the influence of earth system feedbacks and human activities on the evolution of climate change effects over time. Specifically, we have examined: 1) how evapotranspiration and water availability have been changing in Northern Eurasia and may change in the future including the impact of forcing uncertainties (Liu et al., 2013, 2014, 2015); 2) how soil consumption of atmospheric methane across the globe have been influenced and may be influenced by climate change and nitrogen deposition during the 20th and 21st centuries (Zhuang et al., 2013); 3) how wetland inundation extent influences net CO2 and CH4 fluxes from northern high latitudes (Zhuang et al., 2015); 4) the relative effects of various environmental factors (including permafrost degradation) on terrestrial dissolved organic carbon (DOC) loading of river networks across the pan-Arctic and how they have changed over the 20th century (Kicklighter et al., 2013); 5) the impacts of recent and future permafrost thaw on land-atmosphere greenhouse gas exchange across the pan-Arctic (Gao et al., 2012, 2013; Hayes et al., 2014; Kicklighter et al. 2015a, 2018); 6) how climate-induced vegetation shifts may affect carbon fluxes and future land use in Northern Eurasia (Jiang et al., 2012, 2016; Kicklighter et al., 2014a) and the globe (Zhuang et al. 2015b); 7) the relative importance of legacies from past land use, future land-use change and climate change on projections of terrestrial carbon fluxes (Monier et al., 2015; Kicklighter et al., 2016); and 8) how the effects of earth system feedbacks and human activities can be better incorporated in assessments of climate change impacts (Monier et al., 2017; Groisman et al., 2018).« less
  • The Arctic region is rapidly changing in a way that will affect the rest of the world. Parts of Alaska, western Canada, and Siberia are currently warming at twice the global rate. This warming trend is accelerating permafrost deterioration, coastal erosion, snow and ice loss, and other changes that are a direct consequence of climate change. Climatologists have long understood that changes in the Arctic would be faster and more intense than elsewhere on the planet, but the degree and speed of the changes were underestimated compared to recent observations. Policy makers have not yet had time to examine themore » latest evidence or appreciate the nature of the consequences. Thus, the abruptness and severity of an unfolding Arctic climate crisis has not been incorporated into long-range planning. The purpose of this report is to briefly review the physical basis for global climate change and Arctic amplification, summarize the ongoing observations, discuss the potential consequences, explain the need for an objective risk assessment, develop scenarios for future change, review existing modeling capabilities and the need for better regional models, and finally to make recommendations for Sandia's future role in preparing our leaders to deal with impacts of Arctic climate change on national security. Accurate and credible regional-scale climate models are still several years in the future, and those models are essential for estimating climate impacts around the globe. This study demonstrates how a scenario-based method may be used to give insights into climate impacts on a regional scale and possible mitigation. Because of our experience in the Arctic and widespread recognition of the Arctic's importance in the Earth climate system we chose the Arctic as a test case for an assessment of climate impacts on national security. Sandia can make a swift and significant contribution by applying modeling and simulation tools with internal collaborations as well as with outside organizations. Because changes in the Arctic environment are happening so rapidly, a successful program will be one that can adapt very quickly to new information as it becomes available, and can provide decision makers with projections on the 1-5 year time scale over which the most disruptive, high-consequence changes are likely to occur. The greatest short-term impact would be to initiate exploratory simulations to discover new emergent and robust phenomena associated with one or more of the following changing systems: Arctic hydrological cycle, sea ice extent, ocean and atmospheric circulation, permafrost deterioration, carbon mobilization, Greenland ice sheet stability, and coastal erosion. Sandia can also contribute to new technology solutions for improved observations in the Arctic, which is currently a data-sparse region. Sensitivity analyses have the potential to identify thresholds which would enable the collaborative development of 'early warning' sensor systems to seek predicted phenomena that might be precursory to major, high-consequence changes. Much of this work will require improved regional climate models and advanced computing capabilities. Socio-economic modeling tools can help define human and national security consequences. Formal uncertainty quantification must be an integral part of any results that emerge from this work.« less