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The Cryosphere An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 5, issue 4
The Cryosphere, 5, 1043–1056, 2011
© Author(s) 2011. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Special issue: Modeling the spatial dynamics of permafrost and seasonally...

The Cryosphere, 5, 1043–1056, 2011
© Author(s) 2011. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Research article 24 Nov 2011

Research article | 24 Nov 2011

Permafrost degradation risk zone assessment using simulation models

R. P. Daanen1, T. Ingeman-Nielsen2, S. S. Marchenko3, V. E. Romanovsky3, N. Foged2, M. Stendel4,5, J. H. Christensen4,5, and K. Hornbech Svendsen6 R. P. Daanen et al.
  • 1Institute of Northern Engineering, University of Alaska Fairbanks, 306 Tanana Loop, Fairbanks, AK 99775-5860, USA
  • 2Dep. Civil Engineering,Technical University of Denmark, Kgs. Lyngby, Denmark
  • 3Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska Fairbanks, USA
  • 4Danish Meteorological Institute, Copenhagen, Denmark
  • 5Greenland Climate Research Centre, Nuuk, Greenland
  • 6Greenland Survey, Nuuk, Greenland

Abstract. In this proof-of-concept study we focus on linking large scale climate and permafrost simulations to small scale engineering projects by bridging the gap between climate and permafrost sciences on the one hand and on the other technical recommendation for adaptation of planned infrastructures to climate change in a region generally underlain by permafrost. We present the current and future state of permafrost in Greenland as modelled numerically with the GIPL model driven by HIRHAM climate projections up to 2080. We develop a concept called Permafrost Thaw Potential (PTP), defined as the potential active layer increase due to climate warming and surface alterations. PTP is then used in a simple risk assessment procedure useful for engineering applications. The modelling shows that climate warming will result in continuing wide-spread permafrost warming and degradation in Greenland, in agreement with present observations. We provide examples of application of the risk zone assessment approach for the two towns of Sisimiut and Ilulissat, both classified with high PTP.

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