Thermokarst lake, hydrological flow and water balance indicators of permafrost change in Western Siberia
Karlsson, J.M., S.W. Lyon, and G. Destouni, 2012: “Thermokarst lake, hydrological flow and water balance indicators of permafrost change in western Siberia.” Journal of Hydrology, v. 464–465, pp. 459-466, doi: 10.1016/j.jhydrol.2012.07.037.
Permafrost, mainly of discontinuous type, that underlies the tundra and taiga landscapes of the Nadym and Pur river basins in northwestern Siberia has been warming during the recent decades. A mosaic of thermokarst lakes and wetlands dominates this area. In this study we tested the hypothesis chain that permafrost thawing changes thermokarst lake area and number, and is then also reflected in and detectable through other associated hydrological changes. Based on indications from previous studies, the other hydrological changes in a basin were expected to be decreasing intra-annual runoff variability (quantified by decreasing maximum and increasing minimum runoff) and systematically decreasing water storage. To test this hypothesis chain, we mapped thermokarst lake changes using remote sensing analysis and analyzed both climate (temperature and precipitation) and water flow and balance changes using available monthly data records. This was done for the whole Nadym and Pur river basins and a smaller sub-basin of the former (denoted 7129) with comparable data availability as the whole river basins. The results for the 7129 sub-basin show all the indicators (thermokarst lake and other hydrological) changing consistently, as could be expected in response to permafrost thawing that alters the connections between surface and subsurface waters, and leads to overall decreases in water (including ground ice) storage within a basin. Over the Nadym and Pur basins, the relative area influenced by similar permafrost thawing and associated lake and hydrological effects appears (yet) too small to be clearly and systematically reflected in the basin-average indicators for these large basins.