Stability Conditions of Peat Plateaus and Palsas in Northern Norway

jan.nitzbon [ at ]


Peat plateaus and palsas are characteristic morphologies of sporadic permafrost, and the transition from permafrost to permafrost‐free ground typically occurs on spatial scales of meters. They are particularly vulnerable to climate change and are currently degrading in Fennoscandia. Here we present a spatially distributed data set of ground surface temperatures for two peat plateau sites in northern Norway for the year 2015–2016. Based on these data and thermal modeling, we investigate how the snow depth and water balance modulate the climate signal in the ground. We find that mean annual ground surface temperatures are centered around 2 to 2.5 °C for stable permafrost locations and 3.5 to 4.5 °C for permafrost‐free locations. The surface freezing degree days are characterized by a noticeable threshold around 200 °, with most permafrost‐free locations ranging below this value and most stable permafrost ones above it. Freezing degree day values are well correlated to the March snow cover, although some variability is observed and attributed to the ground moisture level. Indeed, a zero curtain effect is observed on temperature time series for saturated soils during winter, while drained peat plateaus show early freezing surface temperatures. Complementarily, modeling experiments allow identifying a drainage effect that can modify 1‐m ground temperatures by up to 2 °C between drained and water accumulating simulations for the same snow cover. This effect can set favorable or unfavorable conditions for permafrost stability under the same climate forcing.

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DOI 10.1029/2018JF004945

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Martin, L. C. P. , Nitzbon, J. , Aas, K. S. , Etzelmüller, B. , Kristiansen, H. and Westermann, S. (2019): Stability Conditions of Peat Plateaus and Palsas in Northern Norway , Journal of Geophysical Research-Earth Surface . doi: 10.1029/2018JF004945

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