Historical archived satellite images were compared with contemporary satellite data to track ongoing changes in more than 10,000 large lakes in rapidly warming Siberia. A widespread decline in lake abundance and area has occurred since 1973, despite slight precipitation increases to the region. The spatial pattern of lake disappearance suggests (i) that thaw and "breaching" of permafrost is driving the observed losses, by enabling rapid lake draining into the subsurface; and (ii) a conceptual model in which high-latitude warming of permafrost triggers an initial but transitory phase of lake and wetland expansion, followed by their widespread disappearance.
A compilation of paleoclimate records from lake sediments, trees, glaciers, and marine sediments provides a view of circum-Arctic environmental variability over the last 400 years. From 1840 to the mid-20th century, the Arctic warmed to the highest temperatures in four centuries. This warming ended the Little Ice Age in the Arctic and has caused retreats of glaciers, melting of permafrost and sea ice, and alteration of terrestrial and lake ecosystems. Although warming, particularly after 1920, was likely caused by increases in atmospheric trace gases, the initiation of the warming in the mid-19th century suggests that increased solar irradiance, decreased volcanic activity, and feedbacks internal to the climate system played roles.
Here, we present results from the most comprehensive compilation of Holocene peat soil properties with associated carbon and nitrogen accumulation rates for northern peatlands. Our database consists of 268 peat cores from 215 sites located north of 45°N. It encompasses regions within which peat carbon data have only recently become available, such as the West Siberia Lowlands, the Hudson Bay Lowlands, Kamchatka in Far East Russia, and the Tibetan Plateau. For all northern peatlands, carbon content in organic matter was estimated at 42 ± 3% (standard deviation) for Sphagnum peat, 51 ± 2% for non- Sphagnum peat, and at 49 ± 2% overall. Dry bulk density averaged 0.12 ± 0.07 g/cm3, organic matter bulk density averaged 0.11 ± 0.05 g/cm3, and total carbon content in peat averaged 47 ± 6%. In general, large differences were found between Sphagnum and non- Sphagnum peat types in terms of peat properties. Time-weighted peat carbon accumulation rates averaged 23 ± 2 (standard error of mean) g C/m2/yr during the Holocene on the basis of 151 peat cores from 127 sites, with the highest rates of carbon accumulation (25–28 g C/m2/yr) recorded during the early Holocene when the climate was warmer than the present. Furthermore, we estimate the northern peatland carbon and nitrogen pools at 436 and 10 gigatons, respectively. The database is publicly available at https://peatlands.lehigh.edu .
The spatio-temporal pattern of peak Holocene warmth (Holocene thermal maximum, HTM) is traced over 140 sites across the Western Hemisphere of the Arctic (0-180 W; north of B60 N). Paleoclimate inferences based on a wide variety of proxy indicators provide clear evidence for warmer-than-present conditions at 120 of these sites. At the 16 terrestrial sites where quantitative estimates have been obtained, local HTM temperatures (primarily summer estimates) were on average 1.670.8 C higher than present (approximate average of the 20th century), but the warming was time-transgressive across the western Arctic. As the precession-driven summer insolation anomaly peaked 12-10 ka (thousands of calendar years ago), warming was concentrated in northwest North America, while cool conditions lingered in the northeast. Alaska and northwest Canada experienced the HTM between ca 11 and 9 ka, about 4000 yr prior to the HTM in northeast Canada. The delayed warming in Quebec and Labrador was linked to the residual Laurentide Ice Sheet, which chilled the region through its impact on surface energy balance and ocean circulation. The lingering ice also attests to the inherent asymmetry of atmospheric and oceanic circulation that predisposes the region to glaciation and modulates the pattern of climatic change. The spatial asymmetry of warming during the HTM resembles the pattern of warming observed in the Arctic over the last several decades. Although the two warmings are described at different temporal scales, and the HTM was additionally affected by the residual Laurentide ice, the similarities suggest there might be a preferred mode of variability in the atmospheric circulation that generates a recurrent pattern of warming under positive radiative forcing. Unlike the HTM, however, future warming will not be counterbalanced by the cooling effect of a residual North American ice sheet. r ARTICLE IN PRESS
Hydrologically sensitive tree‐ring chronologies from Pinus flexilis in California and Alberta were used to produce an AD 993–1996 reconstruction of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) and to assess long‐term variability in the PDO's strength and periodicity. The reconstruction indicates that a ∼50 to 70 year periodicity in the PDO is typical for the past 200 years but, was only intermittently a strong mode of variability prior to that. Between AD 1600 and 1800 there is a general absence of significant variability within the 50 to 100 year frequency range. Significant variability within in the frequency range of 50 to 100 years reemerges between AD 1500 and 1300 and AD 1200 to 1000. A prolonged period of strongly negative PDO values between AD 993 and 1300 is contemporaneous with a severe medieval megadrought that is apparent in many proxy hydrologic records for the western United States and Canada.
An analysis of 1516 radiocarbon dates demonstrates that the development of the current circumarctic peatlands began approximately 16.5 thousand years ago (ka) and expanded explosively between 12 and 8 ka in concert with high summer insolation and increasing temperatures. Their rapid development contributed to the sustained peak in CH4 and modest decline of CO2 during the early Holocene and likely contributed to CH4 and CO2 fluctuations during earlier interglacial and interstadial transitions. Given the decreased tempo of peatland initiation in the late Holocene and the transition of many from fens (which generated high levels of CH4) to ombrotrophic bogs, a neoglacial expansion of northern peatlands cannot explain the increase in atmospheric CH4 that occurred after 6 ka.
Northern peatlands have accumulated large stocks of organic carbon (C) and nitrogen (N), but their spatial distribution and vulnerability to climate warming remain uncertain. Here, we used machine-learning techniques with extensive peat core data (n > 7,000) to create observation-based maps of northern peatland C and N stocks, and to assess their response to warming and permafrost thaw. We estimate that northern peatlands cover 3.7 ± 0.5 million km2 and store 415 ± 150 Pg C and 10 ± 7 Pg N. Nearly half of the peatland area and peat C stocks are permafrost affected. Using modeled global warming stabilization scenarios (from 1.5 to 6 °C warming), we project that the current sink of atmospheric C (0.10 ± 0.02 Pg C⋅y−1) in northern peatlands will shift to a C source as 0.8 to 1.9 million km2 of permafrost-affected peatlands thaw. The projected thaw would cause peatland greenhouse gas emissions equal to ∼1% of anthropogenic radiative forcing in this century. The main forcing is from methane emissions (0.7 to 3 Pg cumulative CH4-C) with smaller carbon dioxide forcing (1 to 2 Pg CO2-C) and minor nitrous oxide losses. We project that initial CO2-C losses reverse after ∼200 y, as warming strengthens peatland C-sinks. We project substantial, but highly uncertain, additional losses of peat into fluvial systems of 10 to 30 Pg C and 0.4 to 0.9 Pg N. The combined gaseous and fluvial peatland C loss estimated here adds 30 to 50% onto previous estimates of permafrost-thaw C losses, with southern permafrost regions being the most vulnerable.
Radiocarbon-dated macrofossils are used to document Holocene treeline history across northern Russia (including Siberia). Boreal forest development in this region commenced by 10,000 yr B.P. Over most of Russia, forest advanced to or near the current arctic coastline between 9000 and 7000 yr B.P. and retreated to its present position by between 4000 and 3000 yr B.P. Forest establishment and retreat was roughly synchronous across most of northern Russia. Treeline advance on the Kola Peninsula, however, appears to have occurred later than in other regions. During the period of maximum forest extension, the mean July temperatures along the northern coastline of Russia may have been 2.5°to 7.0°C warmer than modern. The development of forest and expansion of treeline likely reflects a number of complimentary environmental conditions, including heightened summer insolation, the demise of Eurasian ice sheets, reduced sea-ice cover, greater continentality with eustatically lower sea level, and extreme Arctic penetration of warm North Atlantic waters. The late Holocene retreat of Eurasian treeline coincides with declining summer insolation, cooling arctic waters, and neoglaciation.
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