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Accelerated Mobilization of Organic Carbon from Retrogressive Thaw Slumps on the Northern Taymyr Peninsula

Bernhard, Philipp and Zwieback, Simon and Hajnsek, Irena (2022) Accelerated Mobilization of Organic Carbon from Retrogressive Thaw Slumps on the Northern Taymyr Peninsula. The Cryosphere, 16, pp. 2819-2835. Copernicus Publications. doi: 10.5194/tc-16-2819-2022. ISSN 1994-0416.

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Official URL: https://tc.copernicus.org/articles/16/2819/2022/


With climate change, Arctic hillslopes above ice-rich permafrost are vulnerable to enhanced mass wasting and organic carbon mobilization. In this study we use TanDEM-X-derived (TerraSAR-X add-on for Digital Elevation Measurement; synthetic-aperture radar) digital elevation models to document an approximately 43-fold increase in thaw slumping and concomitant 28-fold increase in carbon mobilization on the northern Taymyr Peninsula from 2010 to 2021. The available observations allowed us to compare two time periods, from 2010/11 to 2016/17 and from 2017/18 to 2020/21, and contrast retrogressive thaw slump (RTS) activity between these periods. We find that all quantities describing RTS activity increased in the observed period. The total volumetric change per year increased from about 0.17 × 106 to 7.4 × 106 m3 yr-1, a 43-fold increase. The observed surge in RTS activity is mainly driven by the initiation of new RTS, indicated by the 17-fold increase in active RTS numbers from 82 to 1404 and the relatively low average volumetric change rate per RTS increase of 2.3. In annual Sentinel-2 imagery, the number of detected RTSs in a subregion increased 10-fold in 2020. This coincides with a severe heatwave that occurred in northern Siberia in 2020. The area-to-volume scaling of the RTSs varied only slightly over time, despite the 2020 heatwave, indicating a robustness of the relationship to such an event. To estimate the slump-mobilized organic carbon, we intersected the elevation changes with a soil organic carbon (SOC) map, with contrasting assumptions about the deep carbon pool and massive-ice content. We estimated that the SOC mobilization rate increases 28-fold. The normalization of the SOC mobilization rate to our study region yields values of 11 gC yr-1 m-2 with a confidence interval of 5 to 38 gC yr-1 m-2. A comparison to an independent estimate of the net ecosystem exchange of 4.1 +/- 13.0 gC yr-1 m-2 illustrates the importance of RTS activity to the carbon cycle. These results underscore that mass wasting is an important but commonly neglected component of the Arctic carbon cycle and particularly sensitive to extreme events.

Item URL in elib:https://elib.dlr.de/187521/
Document Type:Article
Title:Accelerated Mobilization of Organic Carbon from Retrogressive Thaw Slumps on the Northern Taymyr Peninsula
AuthorsInstitution or Email of AuthorsAuthor's ORCID iDORCID Put Code
Date:15 July 2022
Journal or Publication Title:The Cryosphere
Refereed publication:Yes
Open Access:Yes
Gold Open Access:Yes
In ISI Web of Science:Yes
Page Range:pp. 2819-2835
Publisher:Copernicus Publications
Keywords:Accelerated mobilization, organic carbon, retrogressive thaw slumps, northern Taymyr Peninsula, TerraSAR-X, TanDEM-X, climate change, digital elevation
HGF - Research field:Aeronautics, Space and Transport
HGF - Program:Space
HGF - Program Themes:Earth Observation
DLR - Research area:Raumfahrt
DLR - Program:R EO - Earth Observation
DLR - Research theme (Project):R - Polarimetric SAR Interferometry HR
Location: Oberpfaffenhofen
Institutes and Institutions:Microwaves and Radar Institute > Radar Concepts
Deposited By: Radzuweit, Sibylle
Deposited On:15 Jul 2022 14:17
Last Modified:20 Jul 2022 13:47

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