Nature Communications | VOL. 9
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21st-century modeled permafrost carbon emissions accelerated by abrupt thaw beneath lakes

Publication Date Aug 15, 2018

Abstract

Permafrost carbon feedback (PCF) modeling has focused on gradual thaw of near-surface permafrost leading to enhanced carbon dioxide and methane emissions that accelerate global climate warming. These state-of-the-art land models have yet to incorporate deeper, abrupt thaw in the PCF. Here we use model data, supported by field observations, radiocarbon dating, and remote sensing, to show that methane and carbon dioxide emissions from abrupt\xa0thaw beneath thermokarst lakes will more than double radiative forcing from circumpolar permafrost-soil carbon fluxes this century. Abrupt\xa0thaw lake emissions are similar under moderate and high representative concentration pathways (RCP4.5 and RCP8.5), but their relative contribution to the PCF is much larger under the moderate warming scenario. Abrupt thaw accelerates mobilization of deeply frozen, ancient carbon, increasing 14C-depleted permafrost soil carbon emissions by ~125\u2013190% compared to gradual thaw alone. These findings demonstrate the need to incorporate abrupt\xa0thaw processes in earth system models for more comprehensive projection of the PCF this century.

Concepts
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Permafrost Carbon Feedback
Methane Emissions
Abrupt Thaw
Carbon Dioxide Emissions
High Representative Concentration Pathways
Permafrost Soil Carbon
Gradual Thaw
Ancient Carbon
Permafrost Carbon
Land Models

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