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Climate and Land Use Change Research and Development Program

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Select Bibliography:

Clow, G.D., DeGange, A.R., Derksen, D.V., Zimmerman, C.E. (2011): Chapter 4. Climate Change Considerations, in Holland-Bartels, Leslie, and Pierce, Brenda, eds., 2011, An evaluation of the science needs to inform decisions on Outer Continental Shelf energy development in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas, Alaska: U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1370, p. 81-108.

Overeem, I., Anderson, R.S., Wobus, C.W., Clow, G.D., Urban, F.E., Matell, N. (2011): Quantifying the Role of Sea Ice Loss on Arctic Coastal Erosion, Geophys. Res. Lett., 38, L17503, doi:10.1029/2011GL048681.

Smith, S.L., V.E. Romanovsky, A.G. Lewkowicz, C.R. Burn, M. Allard, G.D. Clow, K. Yoshikawa and J. Throop (2010): Thermal State of Permafrost in North America - A Contribution to the International Polar Year, Permafrost and Periglacial Processes, Special Issue: The International Polar Year, 21(2), 117-135.

Cryospheric Studies

Surge-producing winds along Alaska’s northern coast due to a polar low migrating eastward through the Beaufort Sea (simulated by the Weather Research & Forecasting Model, WRF).
Surge-producing winds along Alaska’s northern coast due
to a polar low migrating eastward through the Beaufort Sea
(simulated by the Weather Research & Forecasting Model,
This project has 3 main areas of activity: 1) Climate and environmental-observing networks are being used to detect and document current rates of climatic change in arctic Alaska and its impact on land, water, and biological systems. Data acquired by these networks is used to help identify which components of the climate system are responsible for the extraordinarily large environmental changes currently being observed there. 2) A high-resolution dynamical climate model (WRF) is being used to better understand the spatial and temporal patterns of contemporary climate change in arctic Alaska and in high-altitude areas (e.g. the Rocky Mountains). Coupling WRF with earth-surface models is leading to improved understanding of processes and of future climate-change impacts in arctic Alaska. Coastal erosion and storm surges along Alaska’s Beaufort Sea are a current focus of investigation. 3) Temperature and heat-flow measurements are being made in the Greenland and Antarctic Ice Sheets, adding to the sparse inventory of such measurements. Ice sheet models used to predict the contribution of polar ice sheets to sea-level rise during this century critically depend on the 3D temperature fields in the ice, the locations where the ice sheets are currently melted at the bed, and on the heat flow into the ice sheets from the earth's crust. The temperature measurements will also be used to reconstruct the surface-temperature history at these sites over the last 20-40 ka using the physics-based borehole paleothermometry method.

Why is this research important?

Instabilities and feedbacks that occur in the polar regions have the greatest potential for affecting global-scale climate change. Yet many of the processes and feedbacks operating in these regions are insufficiently understood. For example, one of the greatest uncertainties in projecting sea-level rise during this century is related to how poorly we understand the dynamical response of the polar ice sheets to climate change. In arctic Alaska, decisions of local, national, and international importance are currently hampered by the existence of large scientific gaps. This project is aimed at increasing our understanding of polar (and high-altitude) processes to better enable the projection of future changes and impacts. This information will aid decision-making in high-latitude, high-altitude, and low-lying coastal areas of the U.S. It will also provide a better foundation for understanding present and future changes to land, water, and biological systems in these vulnerable environments.

Principal Investigator: Gary Clow, Geology and Environmental Change Science Center

Project Team: Frank Urban, Mark Ohm

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