Sensitivity of permafrost

sebastian.westermann [ at ]


Arctic permafrost may be adversely affected by climate change in a number of ways, so that establishing a world-wide monitoring program seems imperative. This thesis evaluates possibilities for permafrost monitoring at the example of a permafrost site on Svalbard, Norway. An energy balance model for permafrost temperatures is developed that evaluates the different components of the surface energy budget in analogy to climate models. The surface energy budget, consisting of radiation components, sensible and latent heat fluxes as well as the ground heat flux, is measured over the course of one year, which has not been accomplished for arctic land areas so far. A considerable small-scale heterogeneity of the summer surface temperature is observed in long-term measurements with a thermal imaging system, which can be reproduced in the energy balance model. The model can also simulate the impact of different snow depths on the soil temperature, that has been documented in field measurements. Furthermore, time series of terrestrial surface temperature measurements are compared to satellite-borne measurements, for which a significant cold-bias is observed during winter. Finally, different possibilities for a world-wide monitoring scheme are assessed. Energy budget models can incorporate different satellite data sets as training data sets for parameter estimation, so that they may constitute an alternative to purely satellite-based schemes.

Item Type
Thesis (PhD)
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Eprint ID
Cite as
Westermann, S. (2010): Sensitivity of permafrost , PhD thesis, University of Heidelberg, Combined Faculties for Natural Sciences and Mathematics.

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