Arctic soil methane sink increases with drier conditions and higher ecosystem respiration
Kathryn A. Bennett,
T. Andrew Black,
Maija E. Marushchak,
Evan J. Wilcox,
Nature Climate Change
Abstract Arctic wetlands are known methane (CH 4 ) emitters but recent studies suggest that the Arctic CH 4 sink strength may be underestimated. Here we explore the capacity of well-drained Arctic soils to consume atmospheric CH 4 using >40,000 hourly flux observations and spatially distributed flux measurements from 4 sites and 14 surface types. While consumption of atmospheric CH 4 occurred at all sites at rates of 0.092 ± 0.011 mgCH 4 m −2 h −1 (mean ± s.e.), CH 4 uptake displayed distinct diel and seasonal patterns reflecting ecosystem respiration. Combining in situ flux data with laboratory investigations and a machine learning approach, we find biotic drivers to be highly important. Soil moisture outweighed temperature as an abiotic control and higher CH 4 uptake was linked to increased availability of labile carbon. Our findings imply that soil drying and enhanced nutrient supply will promote CH 4 uptake by Arctic soils, providing a negative feedback to global climate change.
Abstract. Topography and vegetation play a major role in sub-pixel variability of Arctic snowpack properties but are not considered in current passive microwave (PMW) satellite SWE retrievals. Simulation of sub-pixel variability of snow properties is also problematic when downscaling snow and climate models. In this study, we simplified observed variability of snowpack properties (depth, density, microstructure) in a two-layer model with mean values and distributions of two multi-year tundra dataset so they could be incorporated in SWE retrieval schemes. Spatial variation of snow depth was parameterized by a log-normal distribution with mean (μsd) values and coefficients of variation (CVsd). Snow depth variability (CVsd) was found to increase as a function of the area measured by a remotely piloted aircraft system (RPAS). Distributions of snow specific surface area (SSA) and density were found for the wind slab (WS) and depth hoar (DH) layers. The mean depth hoar fraction (DHF) was found to be higher in Trail Valley Creek (TVC) than in Cambridge Bay (CB), where TVC is at a lower latitude with a subarctic shrub tundra compared to CB, which is a graminoid tundra. DHFs were fitted with a Gaussian process and predicted from snow depth. Simulations of brightness temperatures using the Snow Microwave Radiative Transfer (SMRT) model incorporating snow depth and DHF variation were evaluated with measurements from the Special Sensor Microwave/Imager and Sounder (SSMIS) sensor. Variation in snow depth (CVsd) is proposed as an effective parameter to account for sub-pixel variability in PMW emission, improving simulation by 8 K. SMRT simulations using a CVsd of 0.9 best matched CVsd observations from spatial datasets for areas > 3 km2, which is comparable to the 3.125 km pixel size of the Equal-Area Scalable Earth (EASE)-Grid 2.0 enhanced resolution at 37 GHz.
Impact of measured and simulated tundra snowpack properties on heat transfer
Victoria R. Dutch,
The Cryosphere, Volume 16, Issue 10
Abstract. Snowpack microstructure controls the transfer of heat to, as well as the temperature of, the underlying soils. In situ measurements of snow and soil properties from four field campaigns during two winters (March and November 2018, January and March 2019) were compared to an ensemble of CLM5.0 (Community Land Model) simulations, at Trail Valley Creek, Northwest Territories, Canada. Snow micropenetrometer profiles allowed for snowpack density and thermal conductivity to be derived at higher vertical resolution (1.25 mm) and a larger sample size (n=1050) compared to traditional snowpit observations (3 cm vertical resolution; n=115). Comparing measurements with simulations shows CLM overestimated snow thermal conductivity by a factor of 3, leading to a cold bias in wintertime soil temperatures (RMSE=5.8 ∘C). Two different approaches were taken to reduce this bias: alternative parameterisations of snow thermal conductivity and the application of a correction factor. All the evaluated parameterisations of snow thermal conductivity improved simulations of wintertime soil temperatures, with that of Sturm et al. (1997) having the greatest impact (RMSE=2.5 ∘C). The required correction factor is strongly related to snow depth (R2=0.77,RMSE=0.066) and thus differs between the two snow seasons, limiting the applicability of such an approach. Improving simulated snow properties and the corresponding heat flux is important, as wintertime soil temperatures are an important control on subnivean soil respiration and hence impact Arctic winter carbon fluxes and budgets.
Impact of measured and simulated tundra snowpack properties on heat transfer
Victoria R. Dutch,
Abstract. Snowpack microstructure controls the transfer of heat to, and the temperature of, the underlying soils. In situ measurements of snow and soil properties from four field campaigns during two different winters (March and November 2018, January and March 2019) were compared to an ensemble of CLM5.0 (Community Land Model) simulations, at Trail Valley Creek, Northwest Territories, Canada. Snow MicroPenetrometer profiles allowed snowpack density and thermal conductivity to be derived at higher vertical resolution (1.25 mm) and a larger sample size (n = 1050) compared to traditional snowpit observations (3 cm vertical resolution; n = 115). Comparing measurements with simulations shows CLM overestimated snow thermal conductivity by a factor of 3, leading to a cold bias in wintertime soil temperatures (RMSE = 5.8 °C). Bias-correction of the simulated thermal conductivity (relative to field measurements) improved simulated soil temperatures (RMSE = 2.1 °C). Multiple linear regression shows the required correction factor is strongly related to snow depth (R2 = 0.77, RMSE = 0.066) particularly early in the winter. Furthermore, CLM simulations did not adequately represent the observed high proportions of depth hoar. Addressing uncertainty in simulated snow properties and the corresponding heat flux is important, as wintertime soil temperatures act as a control on subnivean soil respiration, and hence impact Arctic winter carbon fluxes and budgets.
Abstract. The Arctic is warming at two to three times the rate of the global average, significantly impacting snow accumulation and melt. Unfortunately, conventional methods to measure snow water equivalent (SWE), a key aspect of the Arctic snow cover, have numerous limitations that hinder our ability to document annual cycles, the impact of climate change, or to test predictive models. As a result, there is an urgent need for improved methods that measure Arctic SWE; allow for continuous, unmanned measurements over the entire winter; and allow measurements that are representative of spatially variable, Arctic snow covers. In-situ, or invasive, cosmic ray neutron sensors (CRNSs) may fill this observational gap, but few studies have tested these types of sensors or considered their applicability at remote sites in the Arctic. During the winters of 2016/17 and 2017/18 we tested an in-situ CRNS system at two locations in Canada; a cold, low- to high-SWE environment in the Canadian Arctic and at a warm, low-SWE landscape in Southern Ontario that allowed easier access for validation purposes. CRNS moderated neutron counts were compared to manual snow survey SWE values obtained during both winter seasons. Pearson correlation coefficients ranged from −0.89 to −0.98, while regression analyses provided R2 values from 0.79 to 0.96. RMSE of the CRNS-measured SWE averaged 2 mm at the southern Ontario site and ranged from 28 to 40 mm at the Arctic site. These data show that in-situ CRNS instruments are able to continuously measure SWE with sufficient accuracy, and have important applications for measuring SWE in a variety of environments, including remote Arctic locations. These sensors can provide important SWE data for testing snow and hydrological models, water resource management applications, and the validation of remote-sensing applications.
Abstract. Grounded in situ, or invasive, cosmic ray neutron sensors (CRNSs) may allow for continuous, unattended measurements of snow water equivalent (SWE) over complete winter seasons and allow for measurements that are representative of spatially variable Arctic snow covers, but few studies have tested these types of sensors or considered their applicability at remote sites in the Arctic. During the winters of 2016/2017 and 2017/2018 we tested a grounded in situ CRNS system at two locations in Canada: a cold, low- to high-SWE environment in the Canadian Arctic and at a warm, low-SWE landscape in southern Ontario that allowed easier access for validation purposes. Five CRNS units were applied in a transect to obtain continuous data for a single significant snow feature; CRNS-moderated neutron counts were compared to manual snow survey SWE values obtained during both winter seasons. The data indicate that grounded in situ CRNS instruments appear able to continuously measure SWE with sufficient accuracy utilizing both a linear regression and nonlinear formulation. These sensors can provide important SWE data for testing snow and hydrological models, water resource management applications, and the validation of remote sensing applications.
Arctic tundra environments are characterized by a spatially heterogeneous end-of-winter snow depth resulting from wind transport and deposition. Traditional methods for measuring snow depth do not accurately capture such heterogeneity at catchment scales. In this study we address the use of high-resolution, spatially distributed, snow depth data for Arctic environments through the application of unmanned aerial systems (UASs). We apply Structure-from-Motion photogrammetry to images collected using a fixed-wing UAS to produce a 1 m resolution snow depth product across seven areas of interest (AOIs) within the Trail Valley Creek Research Watershed, Northwest Territories, Canada. We evaluated these snow depth products with in situ measurements of both the snow surface elevation (n = 8434) and snow depth (n = 7191). When all AOIs were averaged, the RMSE of the snow surface elevation models was 0.16 m (<0.01 m bias), similar to the snow depth product (UAS SD ) RMSE of 0.15 m (+0.04 m bias). The distribution of snow depth between in situ measurements and UAS SD was similar along the transects where in situ snow depth was collected, although similarity varies by AOI. Finally, we provide a discussion of factors that may influence the accuracy of the snow depth products including vegetation, environmental conditions, and study design.
The overall spatial and temporal influence of shrub expansion on permafrost is largely unknown due to uncertainty in estimating the magnitude of many counteracting processes. For example, shrubs shade the ground during the snow-free season, which can reduce active layer thickness. At the same time, shrubs advance the timing of snowmelt when they protrude through the snow surface, thereby exposing the active layer to thawing earlier in spring. Here, we compare 3056 in situ frost table depth measurements split between mineral earth hummocks and organic inter-hummock zones across four dominant shrub–tundra vegetation types. Snow-free date, snow depth, hummock development, topography, and vegetation cover were compared to frost table depth measurements using a structural equation modeling approach that quantifies the direct and combined interacting influence of these variables. Areas of birch shrubs became snow free earlier regardless of snow depth or hillslope aspect because they protruded through the snow surface, leading to deeper hummock frost table depths. Projected increases in shrub height and extent combined with projected decreases in snowfall would lead to increased shrub protrusion across the Arctic, potentially deepening the active layer in areas where shrub protrusion advances the snow-free date.