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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. 2015. "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 = 2015,
month = 7
}

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
  • 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
  • The geographic range limits of many species are strongly affected by climate and are expected to change under global warming. For species that are able to track changing climate over broad geographic areas, we expect to see shifts in species distributions toward the poles and away from the equator. A number of ecological and evolutionary factors, however, could restrict this shifting or redistribution under climate change. These factors include restricted habitat availability, restricted capacity for or barriers to movement, or reduced abundance of colonists due the perturbation effect of climate change. This research project examined the last of these constraintsmore » - that climate change could perturb local conditions to which populations are adapted, reducing the likelihood that a species will shift its distribution by diminishing the number of potential colonists. In the most extreme cases, species ranges could collapse over a broad geographic area with no poleward migration and an increased risk of species extinction. Changes in individual species ranges are the processes that drive larger phenomena such as changes in land cover, ecosystem type, and even changes in carbon cycling. For example, consider the poleward range shift and population outbreaks of the mountain pine beetle that has decimated millions of acres of Douglas fir trees in the western US and Canada. Standing dead trees cause forest fires and release vast quantities of carbon to the atmosphere. The beetle likely shifted its range because it is not locally adapted across its range, and it appears to be limited by winter low temperatures that have steadily increased in the last decades. To understand range and abundance changes like the pine beetle, we must reveal the extent of adaptive variation across species ranges - and the physiological basis of that adaptation - to know if other species will change as readily as the pine beetle. Ecologists tend to assume that range shifts are the dominant response of species to climate change, but our experiments suggest that other processes may act in some species that reduce the likelihood of geographic range change. In the first part of our DOE grant (ending 2008) we argued that the process of local adaptation of populations within a species range, followed by climatic changes that occur too quickly for adaptive evolution, is an underappreciated mechanism by which climate change could affect biodiversity. When this process acts, species ranges may not shift readily toward the poles, slowing the rate of species and biome change. To test this claim, we performed an experiment comparing core and peripheral populations in a series of field observations, translocation experiments, and genetic analyses. The papers in Appendix A were generated from 2005-2008 funding. In the second part of the DOE grant (ending 2011) we studied which traits promote population differentiation and local adaptation by building genomic resources for our study species and using these resources to reveal differences in gene expression in peripheral and core populations. The papers in Appendix B were generated from 2008-2011 funding. This work was pursued with two butterfly species that have contrasting life history traits (body size and resource specialization) and occupy a common ecosystem and a latitudinal range. These species enabled us to test the following hypotheses using a single phylogenetic group.« less