Investigating lake-area dynamics across a permafrost-thaw spectrum using airborne electromagnetic surveys and remote sensing time-series data in Yukon Flats, Alaska
Lakes in boreal lowlands cycle carbon and supply an important source of freshwater for wildlife and migratory waterfowl. The abundance and distribution of these lakes are supported, in part, by permafrost distribution, which is subject to change. Relationships between permafrost thaw and lake dynamics remain poorly known in most boreal regions. Here, new airborne electromagnetic (AEM) data collected during June 2010 and February 2016 were used to constrain deep permafrost distribution. AEM data were coupled with Landsat-derived lake surface-area data from 1979 through 2011 to inform temporal lake behavior changes in the 35 500- km2 Yukon Flats ecoregion of Alaska. Together, over 1500 km of AEM data, and roughly 30 years of Landsat data were used to explore processes that drive lake dynamics across a variety of permafrost thaw states not possible in studies conducted with satellite imagery or field measurements alone. Clustered time-series data identified lakes with similar temporal dynamics. Clusters possessed similarities in lake permanence (i.e. ephemeral versus perennial), subsurface permafrost distribution, and proximity to rivers and streams. Of the clustered lakes, ~66% are inferred to have at least intermittent connectivity with other surface-water features, ~19% are inferred to have shallow subsurface connectivity to other surface water features that served as a low-pass filter for hydroclimatic fluctuations, and ~15% appear to be isolated by surrounding permafrost (i.e. no connectivity). Integrated analysis of AEM and Landsat data reveals a progression from relatively synchronous lake dynamics among disconnected lakes in the most spatially continuous, thick permafrost to quite high spatiotemporal heterogeneity in lake behavior among variably-connected lakes in regions with notably less continuous permafrost. Variability can be explained by the preferential development of thawed permeable gravel pathways for lateral water redistribution in this area. The general spatial progression in permafrost thaw state and lake area behavior may be extended to the temporal dimension. However, extensive permafrost thaw, beyond what is currently observed, is expected to promote ubiquitous subsurface connectivity, eventually evolving to a state of increased lake synchronicity.
|Investigating lake-area dynamics across a permafrost-thaw spectrum using airborne electromagnetic surveys and remote sensing time-series data in Yukon Flats, Alaska
|David Rey, Michelle Ann Walvoord, Burke Minsley, Jennifer Rover, Kamini Singha
|Environmental Research Letters
|USGS Publications Warehouse
|Crustal Geophysics and Geochemistry Science Center; Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center; WMA - Earth System Processes Division