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TitleThe changing thermal state of permafrost
AuthorSmith, S LORCID logo; O'Neill, H BORCID logo; Isaksen, K; Noetzli, J; Romanovsky, V E
SourceNature Reviews Earth & Environment 3, 2022 p. 10-23,
Alt SeriesNatural Resources Canada, Contribution Series 20210013
PublisherSpringer Nature
Mediapaper; on-line; digital
File formatpdf
ProvinceCanada; British Columbia; Alberta; Saskatchewan; Manitoba; Ontario; Quebec; New Brunswick; Nova Scotia; Prince Edward Island; Newfoundland and Labrador; Northwest Territories; Yukon; Nunavut
NTS1; 2; 3; 10; 11; 12; 13; 14; 15; 16; 20; 21; 22; 23; 24; 25; 26; 27; 28; 29; 30; 31; 32; 33; 34; 35; 36; 37; 38; 39; 40; 41; 42; 43; 44; 45; 46; 47; 48; 49; 52; 53; 54; 55; 56; 57; 58; 59; 62; 63; 64; 65; 66; 67; 68; 69; 72; 73; 74; 75; 76; 77; 78; 79; 82; 83; 84; 85; 86; 87; 88; 89; 92; 93; 94; 95; 96; 97; 98; 99; 102; 103; 104; 105; 106; 107; 114O; 114P; 115; 116; 117; 120; 340; 560
Lat/Long WENS-180.0000 180.0000 90.0000 27.0000
Subjectssurficial geology/geomorphology; environmental geology; Science and Technology; Nature and Environment; permafrost; ground ice; climate effects; thermal analyses; ground temperatures; vegetation; snow; models; temperature; precipitation; soil moisture; models; Northern Hemisphere; Global Terrestrial Network for Permafrost (GTN-P); Climate change; permafrost thaw
Illustrationsprofiles; geoscientific sketch maps; time series; tables; schematic representations
ProgramClimate Change Geoscience Permafrost
Released2022 01 11
AbstractPermafrost temperatures have increased in polar and high-elevation regions, affecting the climate system and the integrity of natural and built environments. In this Review, we outline changes in the thermal state of permafrost, focusing on permafrost temperatures and active-layer thickness. Increases in permafrost temperature vary spatially owing to interactions between climate, vegetation, snow cover, organic-layer thickness and ground ice content. In warmer permafrost (temperatures close to 0°C), rates of warming are typically less than 0.3°C per decade, as observed in sub-Arctic regions. In colder permafrost (temperatures less than -2°C), by contrast, warming of up to about 1°C per decade is apparent, as in the high-latitude Arctic. Increased active-layer thicknesses have also been observed since the 1990s in some regions, including a change of 0.4 m in the Russian Arctic. Simulations unanimously indicate that warming and thawing of permafrost will continue in response to climate change and potentially accelerate, but there is substantial variation in the magnitude and timing of predicted changes between different models and scenarios. A greater understanding of longer-term interactions between permafrost, climate, vegetation and snow cover, as well as improved model representation of subsurface conditions including ground ice, will further reduce uncertainty regarding the thermal state of permafrost and its future response.
Summary(Plain Language Summary, not published)
This review paper on the thermal state of permafrost provides summarizes our state of knowledge regarding recent changes in permafrost temperatures throughout the earth's permafrost regions. Drivers of these changes including climate (air temperature and snow), vegetation changes and environmental disturbances are also discussed. Changes anticipated in the future are discussed as well as limitations to our ability to predict changes in permafrost conditions. The paper clearly shows that world's permafrost has warmed over the last four decades. Warming and thawing of permafrost is expected to continue with anticipated climate warming and this will have implications for natural and built environments and feedbacks to the climate system.

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