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  1. null (Ed.)
    In review. 
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  2. null (Ed.) 
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  3. Permafrost, as an important part of the Cryosphere, has been strongly affected by climate warming, and a wide spread of permafrost responses to the warming is currently observed. In particular, at some locations rather slow rates of permafrost degradations are noticed. We related this behavior to the presence of unfrozen water in frozen fine‐grained earth material. In this paper, we examine not‐very‐commonly‐discussed heat flux from the ground surface into the permafrost and consequently discuss implications of the presence of unfrozen liquid water on long‐term thawing of permafrost. We conducted a series of numerical experiments and demonstrated that the presence of fine‐grained material with substantial unfrozen liquid water content at below 0°C temperature can significantly slow down the thawing rate and hence can increase resilience of permafrost to the warming events. This effect is highly nonlinear, and a difference between the rates of thawing in fine‐ and coarse‐grained materials is more drastic for lower values of heat flux incoming into permafrost. For high heat flux, the difference between these rates almost disappears. As near‐surface permafrost temperature increases towards 0°C and the changes in the ground temperature become less evident, the future observation networks should try to incorporate measurements of unfrozen liquid water content in the near‐surface permafrost and heat flux into permafrost in addition to the existing temperature observations. 
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  4. Abstract

    Permafrost, a key component of Arctic ecosystems, is currently affected by climate warming and anticipated to undergo further significant changes in this century. The most pronounced changes are expected to occur in the transition zone between the discontinuous and continuous types of permafrost. We apply a transient temperature dynamic model to investigate the spatiotemporal evolution of permafrost conditions on the Seward Peninsula, Alaska—a region currently characterized by continuous permafrost in its northern part and discontinuous permafrost in the south. We calibrate model parameters using a variational data assimilation technique exploiting historical ground temperature measurements collected across the study area. The model is then evaluated with a separate control set of the ground temperature data. Calibrated model parameters are distributed across the domain according to ecosystem types. The forcing applied to our model consists of historic monthly temperature and precipitation data and climate projections based on the Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP) 4.5 and 8.5 scenarios. Simulated near‐surface permafrost extent for the 2000–2010 decade agrees well with existing permafrost maps and previous Alaska‐wide modeling studies. Future projections suggest a significant increase (3.0°C under RCP 4.5 and 4.4°C under RCP 8.5 at the 2 m depth) in mean decadal ground temperature on average for the peninsula for the 2090–2100 decade when compared to the period of 2000–2010. Widespread degradation of the near‐surface permafrost is projected to reduce its extent at the end of the 21st century to only 43% of the peninsula's area under RCP 4.5 and 8% under RCP 8.5.

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  5. Abstract

    Northern circumpolar permafrost thaw affects global carbon cycling, as large amounts of stored soil carbon becomes accessible to microbial breakdown under a warming climate. The magnitude of carbon release is linked to the extent of permafrost thaw, which is locally variable and controlled by soil thermodynamics. Soil thermodynamic properties, such as thermal diffusivity, govern the reactivity of the soil‐atmosphere thermal gradient, and are controlled by soil composition and drainage. In order to project permafrost thaw for an Alaskan tundra experimental site, we used seven years of site data to calibrate a soil thermodynamic model using a data assimilation technique. The model reproduced seasonal and interannual temperature dynamics for shallow (5–40 cm) and deep soil layers (2–4 m), and simulations of seasonal thaw depth closely matched observed data. The model was then used to project permafrost thaw at the site to the year 2100 using climate forcing data for three future climate scenarios (RCP 4.5, 6.0, and 8.5). Minimal permafrost thawing occurred until mean annual air temperatures rose above the freezing point, after which we measured over a 1 m increase in thaw depth for every 1 °C rise in mean annual air temperature. Under no projected warming scenario was permafrost remaining in the upper 3 m of soil by 2100. We demonstrated an effective data assimilation method that optimizes parameterization of a soil thermodynamic model. The sensitivity of local permafrost to climate warming illustrates the vulnerability of sub‐Arctic tundra ecosystems to significant and rapid soil thawing.

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