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The Cryosphere An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2019-309
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2019-309
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 07 Feb 2020

Submitted as: research article | 07 Feb 2020

Review status
A revised version of this preprint was accepted for the journal TC and is expected to appear here in due course.

Evaluating permafrost physics in the CMIP6 models and their sensitivity to climate change

Eleanor J. Burke1, Yu Zhang2, and Gerhard Krinner3 Eleanor J. Burke et al.
  • 1Met Office Hadley Centre, FitzRoy Road, Exeter, EX1 3PB, UK
  • 2Natural Resources Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
  • 3Institut des Géosciences de l’Environnement, CNRS, Université Grenoble Alpes, Grenoble, France

Abstract. Permafrost is an important component of the Arctic system and its future fate is likely to control changes in northern high latitude hydrology and biogeochemistry. Here we evaluate the permafrost dynamics in the global models participating in the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (present generation – CMIP6; previous generation – CMIP5) along with the the sensitivity of permafrost to climate change. Whilst the northern high latitude air temperatures are relatively well simulated by the climate models, they do introduce a bias into any subsequent model estimate of permafrost. Therefore evaluation metrics are defined in relation to the air temperature. This paper shows the climate, snow and permafrost physics of the CMIP6 multi-model ensemble is very similar to that of the CMIP5 multi-model ensemble. The main difference is that a small number of models have demonstrably better snow insulation in CMIP6 than in CMIP5 which improves their representation of the permafrost extent. The simulation of maximum summer thaw depth does not improve between CMIP5 and CMIP6. We suggest that models should include a better resolved and deeper soil profile as a first step towards addressing this. We use the annual mean thawed volume of the top 2 m of the soil defined from the model soil profiles for the permafrost region to quantify changes in permafrost dynamics. The CMIP6 models suggest this is projected to increase by 20–30 %/°C of global mean temperature increase. Under climate change and in equilibrium this may result in an additional 80–120 Gt C/°C of permafrost carbon becoming vulnerable to decomposition.

Eleanor J. Burke et al.

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Eleanor J. Burke et al.

Eleanor J. Burke et al.

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Latest update: 13 Jul 2020
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Short summary
Permafrost will degrade under future climate change. This will have implications both locally for the northern high latitude regions and may well amplify global climate change. There have been some recent improvements in the ability of earth system models to simulate the permafrostphysical state but further model developments are required. Models project the thawed volume of soil in the top 2 m of permafrost will increase by 20–30 %/°C of global mean temperature change.
Permafrost will degrade under future climate change. This will have implications both locally...
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