Spatial distribution of pingos in northern Asia
Abstract. Pingos are prominent periglacial landforms in vast regions of the Arctic and Subarctic. They are indicators of modern and past conditions of permafrost, surface geology, hydrology and climate. A first version of a detailed spatial geodatabase of 6059 pingo locations in a 3.5×106 km2 region of northern Asia was assembled from topographic maps. A first order analysis was carried out with respect to permafrost, landscape characteristics, surface geology, hydrology, climate, and elevation datasets using a Geographic Information System (GIS). Pingo heights in the dataset vary between 2 and 37 m, with a mean height of 4.8 m. About 64% of the pingos occur in continuous permafrost with high ice content and thick sediments; another 19% in continuous permafrost with moderate ice content and thick sediments. The majority of these pingos are likely hydrostatic pingos, which are typical of those located in drained thermokarst lake basins of northern lowlands with continuous permafrost. About 82% of the pingos are located in the tundra bioclimatic zone. Most pingos in the dataset are located in regions with mean annual ground temperatures between −3 and −11 °C and mean annual air temperatures between −7 and −18 °C. The dataset confirms that surface geology and hydrology are key factors for pingo formation and occurrence. Based on model predictions for near-future permafrost distribution, about 2073 pingos (34%) along the southern margins of permafrost will be located in regions with thawing permafrost by 2100, which ultimately may lead to increased occurrence of pingo collapse. Based on our dataset and previously published estimates of pingo numbers from other regions, we conclude that there are more than 11 000 pingos on Earth.