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Register Number: ER65332
Title: Collaborative Research: Quantifying Climate Feedbacks of the Terrestrial Biosphere Under Thawing Permafrost Conditions in the Arctic
Principal Investigator: Melillo, Jerry
Institution Address: Woods Hole, MA 02543-1015
Awarded Amount to Date and B&R Code :
FY 2014$0 k
FY 2013$135 kKP170301
FY 2012$0 k
FY 2011$270 kKP170301
DOE Program Manager: Renu Joseph
BER Division: Climate and Environmental Sciences
Research Area: Regional and Global Climate Modeling
Abstract Submit Date: 10/09/2013
Project Term: 09/15/2011 - 09/14/2014
Abstract: This is a collaborative project with Dr. Zhuang, Purdue University (lead-PI); Dr. Schlosser Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Dr. Melillo, Marine Biological Laboratory; and Dr. Walter-Anthony, University of Alaska-Fairbanks. The 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 that encapsulate the fundamental processes governing methane emissions and carbon exchanges as well as their coupling to the global climate system the intent is 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.