Permafrost warming continues throughout a wide swath of the Northern Hemisphere, according to a team of scientists assembled during the recent International Polar Year.
recently published in Permafrost and Periglacial Processes, describe the
thermal state of high-latitude permafrost during the International Polar Year,
2007-2009. Vladimir Romanovsky, a professor with the snow, ice and permafrost
group at the University
of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical
Institute, is the lead author of the paper, which also details the significant
expansion of Northern Hemisphere permafrost monitoring.
paper is actually pretty unique," Romanovsky says, "because it's the
first time such a large geographical area has been involved in one paper."
International Polar Year, Romanovsky and his colleagues launched a field
campaign to improve the existing permafrost-monitoring network. The permafrost
thermal state is monitored with borehole sensors, which gather data from holes
drilled deep into the permafrost. The researchers established nearly 300
borehole sites that serve as permafrost observatories across the polar and
sub-polar regions in the Northern Hemisphere. Their work more than doubled the
size of the previously existing network.
heart of monitoring is the measuring of temperatures in boreholes,"
Romanovsky says. "For permafrost temperatures, you have to be there. You
have to establish boreholes."
from across the circumpolar North allows scientists to analyze trends affecting
permafrost. The article notes that permafrost temperatures have warmed as much
as 2 degrees Celsius – about 36 degree F – from 20 to 30 years ago. They also
found that permafrost near zero degrees Celsius warmed more slowly than colder
permafrost. According to Romanovsky, this trend is an example of the
large-scale analysis possible using data from the expanded network.
enlarged and revamped observatory network is meant to be a building block for
further research. It also has the potential to foster better modeling of future
conditions, and act as an early warning system of the negative consequences of
climate change in permafrost regions. That could, in turn, help policymakers
and the public plan for a future with warmer permafrost.
whose specialty is Russian and North American permafrost conditions, plans to
keep building on the legacy of the International Polar Year. With help from a 5-year
National Science Foundation grant, he continues his collaboration with American
and international colleagues, establishing new borehole sites in under-sampled
areas and analyzing trends evidenced by the newly available data.
Fourth International Polar Year was a 2-year event that began in March of 2007,
and focused the attention of the international research community on the
Earth's polar regions.
Study Finds Permafrost Warming, Monitoring Improving
August 11, 2010