Decadal variations of active-layer thickness in moisture-controlled landscapes, Barrow, Alaska

TitleDecadal variations of active-layer thickness in moisture-controlled landscapes, Barrow, Alaska
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2010
AuthorsShiklomanov, NI, Streletskiy, DA, Nelson, FE, Hollister, RD, Romanovsky, VE, Tweedie, CE, Bockheim, JG, Brown, J
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research - Biogeosciences
Date Published2010/11/17
ISBN Number0148-0227
Keywords0702 Cryosphere: Permafrost, 0706 Cryosphere: Active layer, 0770 Cryosphere: Properties, 0772 Cryosphere: Distribution, active layer, alaska, Barrow, Permafrost

A continuous time series of annual soil thaw records, extending from 1994 to 2009, is available for comparison with the records of thaw obtained from the Biocomplexity Experiment (BE) for the period 2006–2009. Discontinuous records of thaw at Barrow from wet tundra sites date back to the 1960s. Comparisons between the longer records with the BE observations reveal strong similarities. Records of permafrost temperature, reflecting changes in the annual surface energy exchange, are available from the 1950s for comparison with results from measurement programs begun in 2002. The long-term systematic geocryological investigations at Barrow indicate an increase in permafrost temperature, especially during the last several years. The increase in near-surface permafrost temperature is most pronounced in winter. Marked trends are not apparent in the active-layer record, although subsidence measurements on the North Slope indicate that penetration into the ice-rich layer at the top of permafrost has occurred over the past decade. Active-layer thickness values from the 1960s are generally higher than those from the 1990s, and are very similar to those of the 2000s. Analysis of spatial active-layer observations at representative locations demonstrates significant variations in active-layer thickness between different landscape types, reflecting the influence of vegetation, substrate, microtopography, and, especially, soil moisture. Landscape-specific differences exist in the response of active-layer thickness to climatic forcing. These differences are attributable to the existence of localized controls related to combinations of surface and subsurface characteristics. The geocryological records at Barrow illustrate the importance and effectiveness of sustained, well organized monitoring efforts to document long-term trends.