Investigating patterns of pond and lake distributions to enhance the modeling of future Arctic surface inundation

Sina.Muster [ at ]


Permafrost acts as an impermeable subsurface in Arctic lowland landscapes. This hydrological barrier results in carbon-rich, water-saturated soils as well as many ponds and lakes. The rapidly warming Arctic climate very likely will affect the surface inundation in Arctic lowlands due to changes in precipitation, evapotranspiration, and permafrost degradation. Drying and wetting of the surface may occur in different regions and potentially alter the exchange of energy and carbon between the surface and the atmosphere. With increased permafrost thaw, for example, water may drain to deeper soil layers or drainage maybe enhanced due to newly forming drainage networks. Melting ground ice and subsequent inundation, on the other hand, may enhance formation of new ponds and wet areas. The current distribution of ponds and lakes in the Arctic is the result of complex interactions between climate, ground ice volume, topography, age and sediment characteristics. Because lake formation and growth processes occur at spatial scales orders of magnitude below those of the resolution for global or pan-arctic models land surface models, statistical representations of lake size distributions and other properties to inform such processes in future models are needed that can be related to macroscopic landcape properties. This study proposes basic observationally-constrained relationships to enhance the modeling of future Arctic surface inundation. We mapped ponds and lakes in 21 circum-arctic sites representing different permafrost-soil landscapes, i.e., physiographic regions with similar surface geology, regional climate, and biomes. We used high-resolution optical and radar satellite imagery with spatial resolutions of 4 m or better to create detailed water body maps and derive representative probability density functions (PDF). PDFs of ponds and lakes vary little within the same ecoregion. Significant differences, however, do occur between landscapes. We used regional permafrost-soil landscape maps of Alaska, Canada, and Siberia to upscale the water body distributions to the circum-arctic. We here present regional distribution parameters, i.e. pond and lake fractions as well as PDF moments (mean surface area, standard deviation, and skewness) and their uncertainties. Younger landscapes, that developed in the early Holocene exhibit very skewed water body distributions. These landscapes are dominated by many ponds and feature only very few large lakes. Older landscapes, on the other hand, show more larger lakes but also a higher variability in pond and lake size. For lakes smaller than 5*10⁵ m², PDFs change in a regular fashion across all sites: Relationships between mean surface area and standard deviation show a linear behaviour whereas the correlation between mean and skewness log-normal. We hypothesize that these relationships are an expression of pond and lake growth and/or lake formation in the landscapes and discuss the potential of the observed patterns to improve predictions of future distributions of Arctic ponds and lakes.

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Conference (Talk)
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Not peer-reviewed
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Event Details
ICOP, 20 Jun 2016 - 24 Jun 2016, Potsdam, Germany.
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Muster, S. , Roth, K. , Langer, M. , Cresto Aleina, F. , Riley, W. , Koven, C. , Grosse, G. , Lange, S. , Jones, B. M. , Wilson, C. and Boike, J. (2016): Investigating patterns of pond and lake distributions to enhance the modeling of future Arctic surface inundation , ICOP, Potsdam, Germany, 20 June 2016 - 24 June 2016 .


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