Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2021-231
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2021-231

  03 Sep 2021

03 Sep 2021

Review status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal TC.

Strong Increase of Thawing of Subsea Permafrost in the 22nd Century Caused by Anthropogenic Climate Change

Stiig Wilkenskjeld1, Frederieke Miesner2, Paul P. Overduin2, Matteo Puglini1,3,*, and Victor Brovkin1,4 Stiig Wilkenskjeld et al.
  • 1Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, Hamburg, Germany
  • 2Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholz Center for Polar and Marine Research, Potsdam, Germany
  • 3Université Libre Bruxelles, Bruxelles, Belgium
  • 4CEN, University of Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany
  • *No longer active in science.

Abstract. Most Earth System Models (ESMs) neglect climate feedbacks arising from carbon release from thawing permafrost, especially from thawing of sub-sea permafrost (SSPF). To assess the fate of SSPF in the next 1000 years, we implemented SSPF into JSBACH, the land component of the Max Planck Institute Earth Model (MPI-ESM). This is the first implementation of SSPF processes in an ESM-component. We investigate three extended scenarios from the 6th phase of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP6). In the 21st century only small differences are found among the scenarios, but in the upper-end emission scenario SSP5-8.5, especially in the 22nd century SSPF ice melting is more than 15 times faster than in the preindustrial period. In this scenario about 35 % of total SSPF volume and 34 % of SSPF area is lost by year 3000 due to climatic changes. In the more moderate scenarios, the melting maximally exceeds the preindustrial rate by a factor of 4 and the climate change induced SSPF loss (volume and area) by year 3000 does not exceed 14 %. Our results suggest that the rate of melting of SSPF ice is related to the length of the local open water season, and thus that the easily observable sea ice concentration may be used as a proxy for the change of SSPF.

Stiig Wilkenskjeld et al.

Status: open (until 29 Oct 2021)

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Stiig Wilkenskjeld et al.

Stiig Wilkenskjeld et al.

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Short summary
Thawing permafrost releases carbon to the atmosphere, enhancing global warming. Part of the permafrost soils were flooded by rising sea level since the last ice age becoming sub-sea permafrost (SSPF). The SSPF is much less studied than the part still on land. In this study we use a global model to obtain rates of thawing of SSPF under different future climate scenarios until year 3000. After year 2100 the scenarios strongly diverge, closely connected to the eventual disappearance of sea ice.