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  1. Lake formation and drainage are pervasive phenomena in permafrost regions. Drained lake basins (DLBs) are often the most common landforms in lowland permafrost regions in the Arctic (50% to 75% of the landscape). However, detailed assessments of DLB distribution and abundance are limited. In this study, we present a novel and scalable remote sensing-based approach to identifying DLBs in lowland permafrost regions, using the North Slope of Alaska as a case study. We validated this first North Slope-wide DLB data product against several previously published sub-regional scale datasets and manually classified points. The study area covered >71,000 km2, including amore »>39,000 km2 area not previously covered in existing DLB datasets. Our approach used Landsat-8 multispectral imagery and ArcticDEM data to derive a pixel-by-pixel statistical assessment of likelihood of DLB occurrence in sub-regions with different permafrost and periglacial landscape conditions, as well as to quantify aerial coverage of DLBs on the North Slope of Alaska. The results were consistent with previously published regional DLB datasets (up to 87% agreement) and showed high agreement with manually classified random points (64.4–95.5% for DLB and 83.2–95.4% for non-DLB areas). Validation of the remote sensing-based statistical approach on the North Slope of Alaska indicated that it may be possible to extend this methodology to conduct a comprehensive assessment of DLBs in pan-Arctic lowland permafrost regions. Better resolution of the spatial distribution of DLBs in lowland permafrost regions is important for quantitative studies on landscape diversity, wildlife habitat, permafrost, hydrology, geotechnical conditions, and high-latitude carbon cycling.« less
  2. Riverbank erosion in yedoma regions strongly affects landscape evolution, biogeochemical cycling, sediment transport, and organic and nutrient fluxes to the Arctic Ocean. Since 2006, we have studied the 35‐m‐high Itkillik River yedoma bluff in northern Alaska, whose retreat rate during 1995–2010 was up to 19 m/yr, which is among the highest rates worldwide. This study extends our previous observations of bluff evolution and shows that average bluff‐top retreat rates decreased from 8.7–10.0 m/yr during 2011–2014 to 4.5–5.8 m/yr during 2015–2019, and bluff‐base retreat rates for the same time period decreased from 4.7–7.5 m/yr to 1.3–1.7 m/yr, correspondingly. Bluff evolution initially involves rapid fluvio‐thermal erosion atmore »the base and block collapse, following by slowdown in river erosion and continuing thermal denudation of the retreating headwall with formation of baydzherakhs. Eventually, input of sediment and water from the headwall diminishes, vegetation develops, and slope gradually stabilizes. The step change in the fluvial–geomorphic system has resulted in a 60% decline in the volumetric mobilization of sediment and organic carbon between 2011 and 2019. Our findings stress the importance of sustained observations at key permafrost region study sites to elucidate critical information related to past and potential landscape evolution in the Arctic.« less
  3. Very high spatial resolution commercial satellite imagery can inform observation, mapping, and documentation of micro-topographic transitions across large tundra regions. The bridging of fine-scale field studies with pan-Arctic system assessments has until now been constrained by a lack of overlap in spatial resolution and geographical coverage. This likely introduced biases in climate impacts on, and feedback from the Arctic region to the global climate system. The central objective of this exploratory study is to develop an object-based image analysis workflow to automatically extract ice-wedge polygon troughs from very high spatial resolution commercial satellite imagery. We employed a systematic experiment tomore »understand the degree of interoperability of knowledge-based workflows across distinct tundra vegetation units—sedge tundra and tussock tundra—focusing on the same semantic class. In our multi-scale trough modelling workflow, we coupled mathematical morphological filtering with a segmentation process to enhance the quality of image object candidates and classification accuracies. Employment of the master ruleset on sedge tundra reported classification accuracies of correctness of 0.99, completeness of 0.87, and F1 score of 0.92. When the master ruleset was applied to tussock tundra without any adaptations, classification accuracies remained promising while reporting correctness of 0.87, completeness of 0.77, and an F1 score of 0.81. Overall, results suggest that the object-based image analysis-based trough modelling workflow exhibits substantial interoperability across the terrain while producing promising classification accuracies. From an Arctic earth science perspective, the mapped troughs combined with the ArcticDEM can allow hydrological assessments of lateral connectivity of the rapidly changing Arctic tundra landscape, and repeated mapping can allow us to track fine-scale changes across large regions and that has potentially major implications on larger riverine systems.« less
  4. Accelerating erosion of the Alaska Beaufort Sea coast is increasing inputs of organic matter from land to the Arctic Ocean, and improved estimates of organic matter stocks in eroding coastal permafrost are needed to assess their mobilization rates under contemporary conditions. We collected three permafrost cores (4.5–7.5 m long) along a geomorphic gradient near Drew Point, Alaska, where recent erosion rates average 17.2 m year −1 . Down-core patterns indicate that organic-rich soils and lacustrine sediments (12–45% total organic carbon; TOC) in the active layer and upper permafrost accumulated during the Holocene. Deeper permafrost (below 3 m elevation) mainly consists of Late Pleistocene marinemore »sediments with lower organic matter content (∼1% TOC), lower C:N ratios, and higher δ 13 C values. Radiocarbon-based estimates of organic carbon accumulation rates were 11.3 ± 3.6 g TOC m −2  year −1 during the Holocene and 0.5 ± 0.1 g TOC m −2  year −1 during the Late Pleistocene (12–38 kyr BP). Within relict marine sediments, porewater salinities increased with depth. Elevated salinity near sea level (∼20–37 in thawed samples) inhibited freezing despite year-round temperatures below 0°C. We used organic matter stock estimates from the cores in combination with remote sensing time-series data to estimate carbon fluxes for a 9 km stretch of coastline near Drew Point. Erosional fluxes of TOC averaged 1,369 kg C m −1  year −1 during the 21st century (2002–2018), nearly doubling the average flux of the previous half-century (1955–2002). Our estimate of the 21st century erosional TOC flux year −1 from this 9 km coastline (12,318 metric tons C year −1 ) is similar to the annual TOC flux from the Kuparuk River, which drains a 8,107 km 2 area east of Drew Point and ranks as the third largest river on the North Slope of Alaska. Total nitrogen fluxes via coastal erosion at Drew Point were also quantified, and were similar to those from the Kuparuk River. This study emphasizes that coastal erosion represents a significant pathway for carbon and nitrogen trapped in permafrost to enter modern biogeochemical cycles, where it may fuel food webs and greenhouse gas emissions in the marine environment.« less
  5. We present the results of studies of the methane content in soils of the active layer and underlying permafrost, as well as data on the emission of methane into the atmosphere in the dominant landscapes of typical tundra of the western coast of the Yamal Peninsula. A detailed landscape map of the study area was compiled, the dominant types of landscapes were determined, and vegetation cover was described. We determined that a high methane content is characteristic of the wet landscapes: peat bogs within the floodplains, water tracks, and lake basins. Average values of the methane content in the activemore »layer for such landscapes varied from 2.4 to 3.5 mL (CH4)/kg, with a maximum of 9.0 mL (CH4)/kg. The distribution of methane in studied sections is characterized by an increase in its concentration with depth. This confirms the diffuse mechanism of methane transport in the active layer and emission of methane into the atmosphere. The transition zone of the upper permafrost contains 2.5–5-times more methane than the active layer and may become a significant source of methane during the anticipated permafrost degradation. Significant fluxes of methane into the atmosphere of 2.6 mg (CH4) * m−2 * h−1 are characteristic of the flooded landscapes of peat bogs, water tracks, and lake basins, which occupy approximately 45% of the typical tundra area.« less