Carolyn Gibson


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The Northwest Territories Thermokarst Mapping Collective: A northern-driven mapping collaborative toward understanding the effects of permafrost thaw
Steven V. Kokelj, Tristan Gingras-Hill, Seamus V Daly, P D Morse, S A Wolfe, Ashley Rudy, Jurjen van der Sluijs, Niels Weiss, H B O'Neill, Jennifer L. Baltzer, Trevor C. Lantz, Carolyn Gibson, Dieter Cazon, Robert Fraser, Duane G. Froese, Garfield Giff, Charles Klengenberg, Scott F. Lamoureux, William L. Quinton, M. R. Turetsky, Alexandre Chiasson, C.C. Ferguson, Michael Newton, Mike Pope, Jason Paul, A E Wilson, Joseph M. Young
Arctic Science

This paper documents the first comprehensive inventory of thermokarst and thaw-sensitive terrain indicators for a 2 million km2 region of northwestern Canada. This is accomplished through the Thermokarst Mapping Collective (TMC), a research collaborative to systematically inventory indicators of permafrost thaw sensitivity by mapping and aerial assessments across the Northwest Territories (NT), Canada. The increase in NT-based permafrost capacity has fostered science leadership and collaboration with government, academic, and community researchers to enable project implementation. Ongoing communications and outreach have informed study design and strengthened Indigenous and stakeholder relationships. Documentation of theme-based methods supported mapper training, and flexible data infrastructure facilitated progress by Canada-wide researchers throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The TMC inventory of thermokarst and thaw-sensitive landforms agree well with fine-scale empirical mapping (69% to 84% accuracy) and aerial inventory (74% to 96% accuracy) datasets. National- and circumpolar-scale modelling of sensitive permafrost terrain contrasts significantly with TMC outputs, highlighting their limitations and the value of empirically-based mapping approaches. We demonstrate that the multi-parameter TMC outputs support a holistic understanding and refined depictions of permafrost terrain sensitivity, provide novel opportunities for syntheses, and inform future modelling approaches, which are urgently required to comprehend better what permafrost thaw means for Canada’s North.


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Mapping and understanding the vulnerability of northern peatlands to permafrost thaw at scales relevant to community adaptation planning
Carolyn Gibson, Karl Cottenie, Tristan Gingras-Hill, Steven V. Kokelj, Jennifer L. Baltzer, L. Chasmer, M. R. Turetsky
Environmental Research Letters, Volume 16, Issue 5

Abstract Developing spatially explicit permafrost datasets and climate assessments at scales relevant to northern communities is increasingly important as land users and decision makers incorporate changing permafrost conditions in community and adaptation planning. This need is particularly strong within the discontinuous permafrost zone of the Northwest Territories (NWT) Canada where permafrost peatlands are undergoing rapid thaw due to a warming climate. Current data products for predicting landscapes at risk of thaw are generally built at circumpolar scales and do not lend themselves well to fine-scale regional interpretations. Here, we present a new permafrost vulnerability dataset that assesses the degree of permafrost thaw within peatlands across a 750 km latitudinal gradient in the NWT. This updated dataset provides spatially explicit estimates of where peatland thermokarst potential exists, thus making it much more suitable for local, regional or community usage. Within southern peatland complexes, we show that permafrost thaw affects up to 70% of the peatland area and that thaw is strongly mediated by both latitude and elevation, with widespread thaw occuring particularly at low elevations. At the northern end of our latitudinal gradient, peatland permafrost remains climate-protected with relatively little thaw. Collectively these results demonstrate the importance of scale in permafrost analyses and mapping if research is to support northern communities and decision makers in a changing climate. This study offers a more scale-appropriate approach to support community adaptative planning under scenarios of continued warming and widespread permafrost thaw.


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Carbon release through abrupt permafrost thaw
M. R. Turetsky, Benjamin W. Abbott, Miriam C. Jones, K. M. Walter Anthony, David Olefeldt, Edward A. G. Schuur, Guido Grosse, Peter Kuhry, Gustaf Hugelius, Charles D. Koven, David M. Lawrence, Carolyn Gibson, A. Britta K. Sannel, A. David McGuire
Nature Geoscience, Volume 13, Issue 2


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Permafrost collapse is accelerating carbon release
M. R. Turetsky, Benjamin W. Abbott, Miriam C. Jones, K. M. Walter Anthony, David Olefeldt, Edward A. G. Schuur, C. Koven, A. D. McGuire, Guido Grosse, Peter Kuhry, Gustaf Hugelius, David M. Lawrence, Carolyn Gibson, A. Britta K. Sannel
Nature, Volume 569, Issue 7754

The sudden collapse of thawing soils in the Arctic might double the warming from greenhouse gases released from tundra, warn Merritt R. Turetsky and colleagues. The sudden collapse of thawing soils in the Arctic might double the warming from greenhouse gases released from tundra, warn Merritt R. Turetsky and colleagues.


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Wildfire as a major driver of recent permafrost thaw in boreal peatlands
Carolyn Gibson, L. Chasmer, Dan K. Thompson, William L. Quinton, Mike D. Flannigan, David Olefeldt
Nature Communications, Volume 9, Issue 1

Permafrost vulnerability to climate change may be underestimated unless effects of wildfire are considered. Here we assess impacts of wildfire on soil thermal regime and rate of thermokarst bog expansion resulting from complete permafrost thaw in western Canadian permafrost peatlands. Effects of wildfire on permafrost peatlands last for 30 years and include a warmer and deeper active layer, and spatial expansion of continuously thawed soil layers (taliks). These impacts on the soil thermal regime are associated with a tripled rate of thermokarst bog expansion along permafrost edges. Our results suggest that wildfire is directly responsible for 2200 ± 1500 km2 (95% CI) of thermokarst bog development in the study region over the last 30 years, representing ~25% of all thermokarst bog expansion during this period. With increasing fire frequency under a warming climate, this study emphasizes the need to consider wildfires when projecting future circumpolar permafrost thaw.