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Past permafrost dynamics can inform future permafrost carbon-climate feedbacks

July 25, 2023

Climate warming threatens to destabilize vast northern permafrost areas, potentially releasing large quantities of organic carbon that could further disrupt the climate. Here we synthesize paleorecords of past permafrost-carbon dynamics to contextualize future permafrost stability and carbon feedbacks. We identify key landscape differences between the last deglaciation and today that influence the response of permafrost to atmospheric warming, as well as landscape-level differences that limit subsequent carbon uptake. We show that the current magnitude of thaw has not yet exceeded that of previous deglaciations, but that permafrost carbon release has the potential to exert a strong feedback on future Arctic climate as temperatures exceed those of the Pleistocene. Better constraints on the extent of subsea permafrost and its carbon pool, and on carbon dynamics from a range of permafrost thaw processes, including blowout craters and megaslumps, are needed to help quantify the future permafrost-carbon-climate feedbacks.

Publication Year 2023
Title Past permafrost dynamics can inform future permafrost carbon-climate feedbacks
DOI 10.1038/s43247-023-00886-3
Authors Miriam C. Jones, Guido Grosse, Claire C. Treat, Merritt Turetsky, Katey Walter Anthony, Laura Brosius
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Communications Earth and Environment
Index ID 70250037
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Florence Bascom Geoscience Center