Articles | Volume 6, issue 3
The Cryosphere, 6, 613–624, 2012
The Cryosphere, 6, 613–624, 2012

Research article 04 Jun 2012

Research article | 04 Jun 2012

Numerical modeling of permafrost dynamics in Alaska using a high spatial resolution dataset

E. E. Jafarov1, S. S. Marchenko1, and V. E. Romanovsky1,2 E. E. Jafarov et al.
  • 1Department of Geology and Geophysics, University of Alaska Fairbanks, 903 Koyukuk Drive, Fairbanks, Alaska, 99775, USA
  • 2Earth Cryosphere Institute, Tyumen, Russia

Abstract. Climate projections for the 21st century indicate that there could be a pronounced warming and permafrost degradation in the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions. Climate warming is likely to cause permafrost thawing with subsequent effects on surface albedo, hydrology, soil organic matter storage and greenhouse gas emissions.

To assess possible changes in the permafrost thermal state and active layer thickness, we implemented the GIPL2-MPI transient numerical model for the entire Alaska permafrost domain. The model input parameters are spatial datasets of mean monthly air temperature and precipitation, prescribed thermal properties of the multilayered soil column, and water content that are specific for each soil class and geographical location. As a climate forcing, we used the composite of five IPCC Global Circulation Models that has been downscaled to 2 by 2 km spatial resolution by Scenarios Network for Alaska Planning (SNAP) group.

In this paper, we present the modeling results based on input of a five-model composite with A1B carbon emission scenario. The model has been calibrated according to the annual borehole temperature measurements for the State of Alaska. We also performed more detailed calibration for fifteen shallow borehole stations where high quality data are available on daily basis. To validate the model performance, we compared simulated active layer thicknesses with observed data from Circumpolar Active Layer Monitoring (CALM) stations. The calibrated model was used to address possible ground temperature changes for the 21st century. The model simulation results show widespread permafrost degradation in Alaska could begin between 2040–2099 within the vast area southward from the Brooks Range, except for the high altitude regions of the Alaska Range and Wrangell Mountains.