A sign of cooling? New permafrost is forming around shrinking Arctic lakes

From McGill University

New permafrost is forming around Twelvemile Lake in Alaska, but researchers have concluded that this permafrost will have disappeared by the end of the century due to continued climate change.

Researchers from McGill and the U.S. Geological Survey, more used to measuring thawing permafrost than its expansion, have made a surprising discovery. There is new permafrost forming around Twelvemile Lake in the interior of Alaska. But they have also quickly concluded that, given the current rate of climate change, it won’t last beyond the end of this century.

Twelvemile Lake, and many others like it, is disappearing. Over the past thirty years, as a result of climate change and thawing permafrost, the lake water has been receding at an alarming rate. It is now 5 metres or 15 feet shallower than it would have been three decades ago. This is a big change in a very short time.

As the lake recedes, bands of willow shrubs have grown up on the newly exposed lake shores over the past twenty years. What Martin Briggs from the U.S. Geological Survey and Prof. Jeffrey McKenzie from McGill’s Dept. of Earth and Planetary Science have just discovered is that the extra shade provided by these willow shrubs has both cooled and dried the surrounding soil, allowing new permafrost to expand beneath them.

The researchers were initially very excited by this find. But after analyzing the thickness of the new permafrost and projecting how it will be affected by continued climate change and the expected rise in temperature in the Arctic of 3°C, they arrived at the conclusion that the new permafrost won’t last beyond the end of the century.

To read “New permafrost is forming around shrinking Arctic lakes, but will it last?” by Martin Briggs et al in Geophysical Research Letters: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/enhanced/doi/10.1002/2014GL059251/

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73 thoughts on “A sign of cooling? New permafrost is forming around shrinking Arctic lakes

  1. Three degrees will never come, If without the positive feed back the most warming from CO2 will would around 1 C anyone thinking differently is a loon. The chances of that happen is even lees since nature variation may swamp out any positive warming from CO2. If there were positive feedback we would have an unstable climate system and we would oscillate between and ice ball and a hot house. That does not happen so positive feed exist only in the land of unicorns.

  2. But they have also quickly concluded that, given the current rate of climate change, it won’t last beyond the end of this century. [McGill researchers press release; 2014]

    That will be in 86 years. Very likely the site will be covered by about 20 metres of ice then. I’ll put it on my places to visit at that time and send a report.

  3. the fact is new permafrost …but..why should scientist only have to tell the facts? so but it won’t last.

    You said bias?

  4. Just weather.

    Local effect.

    Deeper heat is hiding under the permafrost…

    .
    HEY!…..look over there!!!

    P.S. Also it’s conveniently predicted to disappear long after anyone alive can disprove the 2100 prediction……Convenient that.

  5. Vegetation helps to keep the ground warmer at night so why should the returning permafrost be anything to do with the vegetation cover ?

    More likely the climate has become colder again since the vegetation became established.

  6. Of course;
    “IT won’t last”
    since when was observing accurately measuring. hypothesizing and reporting honestly been a part of CAGW?

  7. Some strange wording here – was it in the original text?
    “It is now 5 metres or 15 feet shallower than it would have been three decades ago. ”

    Why not simply say “shallower than it was three decades ago?” Did they measure the depth three decades ago or just model it?

  8. The water is receding. Permafrost is forming in the section that was kept warmer by the water. Why is that a surprise?

  9. Why is permafrost good ?
    A little warming increases forest at the expense of barren taiga, and expands arable land at the expense of less-productive forest. Isn’t that good ?

  10. Colder weather is also drier, particularly in arctic areas. Lake levels are sinking, new permafrost is forming.
    What does this suggest about climate in Alaska?

  11. Jimmi_the_dalek says:
    June 10, 2014 at 11:46 pm

    The water is receding. Permafrost is forming in the section that was kept warmer by the water. Why is that a surprise?

    ‘Permafrost is permanently frozen soil, sediment, or rock. Its classification is solely based on temperature, not moisture or ground cover. The ground must remain at or below 0°C for at least two years in order to be considered permafrost.’

    http://www.wunderground.com/climate/permafrost.asp

    From the Abstract: ‘Permafrost aggradation, however, has been observed within the margins of recently receded lakes, in seeming contradiction of climate warming.’

    So it was a surprise to the scientists. Must have been dumb scientists. /sarc

  12. Jimmi_the_dalek says:
    June 10, 2014 at 11:46 pm

    Why is that a surprise?

    From the Abstract: ‘Widespread lake shrinkage in cold regions has been linked to climate warming and permafrost thaw. Permafrost aggradation, however, has been observed within the margins of recently receded lakes, in seeming contradiction of climate warming.’

    Dumb scientists? sarc\

    ‘Permafrost is permanently frozen soil, sediment, or rock. Its classification is solely based on temperature, not moisture or ground cover. The ground must remain at or below 0°C for at least two years in order to be considered permafrost.’

    http://www.wunderground.com/climate/permafrost.asp?MR=1

  13. Jimmi_the_dalek says:
    June 10, 2014 at 11:46 pm

    Why is that a surprise?

    Dumb Scientists? sarc\

    from the Abstract: ‘Widespread lake shrinkage in cold regions has been linked to climate warming and permafrost thaw. Permafrost aggradation, however, has been observed within the margins of recently receded lakes, in seeming contradiction of climate warming.’

  14. 4TimesAYear says:
    June 11, 2014 at 12:22 am

    Need a “Like” button for the comments :)

    I like that !!
    We could also do with numbering each comment, to make re-finding info easy

  15. If its anything like Finland then the land is still rebounding after the compreshion caused by the last ice age, so a shallower lake has nothing to do with ‘man made’ global warming but just that boring old natural variety.

  16. ” …….. 5 metres or 15 feet ….”
    Are the metres shrinking as well or are the feet getting bigger?
    According to my Norries Tables 5M = 16′ 5″ approx.
    Sloppy work.

  17. “… they have also quickly concluded that, given the current rate of climate change, it won’t last beyond the end of this century.”

    *Sigh*, let’s leave out the best proxy we have for near Arctic temperature, the Greenland ice core, where regular plunges are now being ignored, playfully illustrated here:

  18. And by the end of the century all Siberia will be covered by weeping willows.

    Seriously, if the shadow provided by the willow shrubs help expanding the permafrost, then the permafrost will prevent the shrubs form growing and expanding and maybe it will kill the few shrubs that managed to grow. Why these types of folks cannot see any negative feedback?

  19. “Why these types of folks cannot see any negative feedback?”

    Because they think that means really bad effects that will cause ‘tipping points’.

    Try to explain that climate is full of evidence of negative feedbacks they go : “OMG, it worse that we thought!”

  20. Magill U press release: “But they have also quickly concluded that, given the current rate of climate change, it won’t last beyond the end of this century.”

    Could someone remind them what the ” current rate of climate change” is ?

    No “global warming for 17 years”.

    Notable shortening of Arctic melting season:

    http://climategrog.wordpress.com/?attachment_id=964

    Slow of decal tend in Arctic ice extent:

    http://climategrog.wordpress.com/2013/09/16/on-identifying-inter-decadal-variation-in-nh-sea-ice/

    Massive 50% gain in Arctic ice _volume_ last year, detected by Cryosat2.

    Perhaps they should not have “quickly concluded that …”

  21. Abstract : “Furthermore, model results indicate that permafrost aggradation is transitory with further climate warming, as new permafrost thaws within seven decades.”

    Better hurry up then , don’t want to miss the chance for another death spiral.

  22. . But they have also quickly concluded that, given the current rate of climate change, it won’t last beyond the end of this century.

    TRANSLATION – Please send some more grant money!

  23. “But they… quickly concluded that, given the current rate of climate change, it won’t last beyond the end of this century.”

    This is a measurable effect of climate change that they don’t even recognize.

  24. “these willow shrubs has both cooled and dried the surrounding soil,”
    A previous post :

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2014/06/10/why-automatic-temperature-adjustments-dont-work/

    Claimed scientific support for vegetation warming the local environment, “So what effect does the sheltering have on temperature? According to McAneney et al. (1990), each 1m of shelter growth increases the maximum air temperature by 0.1°C. So for trees 10m high, we can expect a full 1°C increase in maximum air temperature. ”
    Do people just pick whatever effect they want to support their presupposition?

  25. A poster child for truly irrational denialism is born. Even as the new permafrost grows, the alarmists are calculating the rate at which is is shrinking(?!) and extrapolating the endpoint of the shrinkage.
    “I know what I know. Don’t try to confuse me with the facts.”

  26. They measure evidence of cooling but quickly affirm their belief in warming.

    This must have been what it was like for early astronomers or evolutionists. Find evidence that contradicts the established faith, but affirm your belief in god anyway.

  27. Alaska has had two extremely cold winters with record snowfall in the last three years (the past one was warmer than normal). Given how cold it was and how long the snow lasted, one would have expected an expansion of the permafrost.

    Most global warming studies are like this. OMG, global warming, but here is some data that contradicts it. The paper has to get published and the abstract needs to be in the pro-warming camp so the researchers can keep their job. But they still want the adverse data to get into the public record.

  28. 4TimesAYear says:
    June 11, 2014 at 12:22 am
    “Need a “Like” button for the comments :)”

    If you really like/dislike something, quote the comment and intelligently express your opinion.

  29. Well, apparently the folks at McGill know the exact warming in the future, which is strange since they can’t predict future energy technologies.

  30. Permafrost is a very useful word, and it is simultaneously responsible for widespread misunderstanding when it comes to climate and putative climate change.

    It really should be written “perma”frost, or sometimesfrost.

    By the way I’m going to give a talk about climate at the Libertarian National Convention in Columbus later this month. They are kind enough not to care that I’m a member of no political party, including theirs.

    If anyone has any smart Libertarian friends whom I should meet at the convention, feel free to let me know through talkingabouttheweather.com (leave comment and I’ll respond by e-mail).

  31. I project that the projection will be wrong. I also project that by the time it is proven to be wrong those making the projection will have already cashed in their chips, never to be held to account for this S.W.A.G.

  32. ” given the current rate of climate change”

    I’m unfamiliar with this concept, ‘rate of climate change’. Has someone measured it? to what degree of accuracy? What are the units of measure? Is it a global measurement or localized? If localized, how big an area does it cover?

    A nice sounding but ultimately meaningless concept, similar to ‘average global temperature’.

  33. it’s a damn shame mosquitoes aren’t cute enough…
    ..they would milk this into some great mosquito extinction

  34. 4TimesAYear says:
    June 11, 2014 at 12:22 am

    Need a “Like” button for the comments :)
    ______________________
    All apologies for continuing OT, but that has proven to be a very bad idea, on other sites. It’s probably just human nature, but “group think” soon dominates the commentary and dissent becomes stifled without thought or discussion.
    (I know that you were just being pleasant and posted without malice of intent.)

  35. johndo says:
    June 11, 2014 at 4:14 am
    “”Do people just pick whatever effect they want to support their presupposition? “”

    I was recently told by an eminent academic that, as a result of many decades of peer review in all fields “… you may decide your position and then find any number of ‘peer reviewed papers’ whose findings agree with it …”

    Not sayin’ anyone has done this, just pointing out the possibilities ….

  36. So, I just clicked through the DMI temperature graphs of the mean temp north of 80*.

    Has anyone put together a blinky GIF of all of those graphs? It would be damning evidence of the significant and robust LACK of change in the northern temperature. The only thing I eye is that the last few summers have been cooler, with the present summer temperature mean lagging behind the norm.

  37. Steve (Paris) says:

    “If its anything like Finland then the land is still rebounding after the compreshion caused by the last ice age, so a shallower lake has nothing to do with ‘man made’ global warming but just that boring old natural variety.”

    No. The bottom of the lake and the land around it comes up at the same rate, so the rebound has no effect on lake depth, unless the lake is very large in which case it might be “tipped over” bwcause the rebound is larger at one end. But then part of the lake gets deeper as another part gets shallower.
    Incidentally most of Alaska is not anything like Finland, since it wasn’t covered by ice during the ice age. It was too dry for glaciation:

  38. The researchers said what they had to say in order to publish in this blacklisting science society.

  39. “Jimmi_the_dalek says: June 10, 2014 at 11:46 pm
    The water is receding. Permafrost is forming in the section that was kept warmer by the water. Why is that a surprise?”.

    Definitely not a surprise, to us. Certainly not a surprise that you restate the abstract with a false straw man along with your usual childish condescension.

    a) Why does water keep the section warmer? The scientists didn’t mention it as it is very unlikely. Water freezes almost as well as soil. It is not unusual for arctic lakes and ponds to freeze solid and this is often a problem for aquatic critters when the water is not deep enough or moving fast enough.
    b) The scientists are either desperate to keep their jobs or are quite dense, perhaps permafrost has affected their brains… Citing CAGW alarmist claims is likely mandatory or they get to clean up after the CAGW Arctic tourists.
    —1) The so called scientists in the abstract above used predictions from non-performing unverified models for their future temperature estimates.
    —2) Most lakes left in the wake of glacial retreats are drying up when their source of glacier melt water ceases.
    —3) Attributing the shrinking lakes to climate change is a definite Duh! Climate change since the last ice age ended is perpetual and everyone should thank their lucky stars that the ice age is still retreating rather than advancing. Warm, good! Cold, bad!
    —4) New permafrost forming and advancing is area is not a good thing. Hopefully these permafrost dullard’s predictions for the permafrost not lasting turn out to be accidentally true.

  40. Shade from willow shrubs is cooling summer ground preventing it from melting. One wonders what the definition of “permafrost” is here–has it become seasonal? Did the ground go a single summer without melting? Not to worry, negative feedback is certain: as the ground freezes the willows will die, and the ground will melt. Then the willows might grow back. Permafrost should be made of deeper stuff. You certainly don’t find it under big liquid lakes. –AGF

  41. urederra says:
    June 11, 2014 at 2:55 am

    Since urederra beat me to it, I’ll take the opposite tack. As long as average ground temperature is below the melting point, and summer shade reduces average ground temperature, then theory allows for such observation. The willows only need warm summer ground above the permafrost. And ground temperature would be reduced at the expense of increased air temperature due to increased vegetation. –AGF

  42. I personally believe we are surrounded by evidence of current ongoing global cooling or future “sudden” global cooling. In fact, I’d argue some of the “symptoms” of global warming, such as broader temperature extremes and storms of greater intensity and frequency are actually symptoms of global cooling.

    Luckily, due to the warming of the last 30 years and the lack of measurable cooling after we’ve been able to enjoy a period where at least the big storms happen with less frequency. But what happens when measurable global cooling does begin to set in and polar amplification results in a greater temperature difference between the poles and the equator?

  43. Why is new permafrost forming at all if the region near the Arctic has already warmed 8 times faster than the rest of the globe? Something doesn’t add up.

  44. not all human can understand that warming lead to permafrost forming.

    ( this study does not discuss cooling or warming trends with regards to permafrost forming, it only shows the blanket effect of the soil water content and the lake proximity on permafrost rate of growth)

    It is a complex understanding, that most bloggers cant understand as opposed to scientist.

    The title should have lead people to conclude:
    water in arctic lakes prevents permafrost forming, their drying allow permafrost forming by shifting the temperature gradient in the soil.

    The soil is conducting heat far less efficiently than water.
    Because of receding soil water content (exhanging normally heat with the lake at minimum 0 degree as opposed to the air at -20), the cold air can draw heat from the soil at much depper depth causing permafrost forming.

    the air is not Cooler above… there is just less heat available in the soil by the absence of water for heat transfer.
    In fact the outside temperature could have been changing from -20 celcius to -10celcius ( warming) and the permafrost would still be increasing.

    What is so …. hard to understand? ( except for my poor english!)

    [whatever brah. . . mod]

  45. Oldseadog says:
    June 11, 2014 at 1:32 am

    ” …….. 5 metres or 15 feet ….”
    Are the metres shrinking as well or are the feet getting bigger?
    According to my Norries Tables 5M = 16′ 5″ approx.
    Sloppy work.

    Oh, I see. You’re one of those pedants that insists that two plus two doesn’t equal five … you’re clearly not up on the new math of science, my friend.

    w.

  46. if we relocate the “new” illegal immigrants to Greenland, in 50 years (as the models infer) they can be herding burritos and harvesting tacos. Heck, they can be their own bosses. They would not have to worry about gangs and sex crimes. they can leave behind all the things that make their countries suck. Hallafrickinluha. Hey Obama ya got yer ears on?

  47. The upside of this increased shrubbery growth from warming and resulting increased permafrost from shading is that the methane-release bogeyman can be shelved for the next few decades.

  48. What sort of research paper concludes with a statement of pure speculation such as:
    “…The researchers were initially very excited by this find. But after analyzing the thickness of the new permafrost and projecting how it will be affected by continued climate change and the expected rise in temperature in the Arctic of 3°C, they arrived at the conclusion that the new permafrost won’t last beyond the end of the century…”
    Call me old fashioned, but isn’t the point of a research paper simply to measure or observe a phenomena and then try to explain it? I don’t really see where off-topic blethering such as this fits in, other than to keep the politicians on the grants council appeased.

  49. About 24 hours ago it was reported that the Great Lakes were finally ice free! These are sure signs of the US in a warming. It’s worse than we thought.

    10 June 2014
    Great Lakes are ice free at last
    Doyle Rice, USA TODAY 6:42 p.m. EDT
    At last, winter is over in the Great Lakes.

    For the first time since November, the Great Lakes are ice-free as of today, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

    The last holdout was Lake Superior, where ice remained near Marquette, Mich., as recently as late last week……

    http://www.usatoday.com/story/weather/2014/06/10/great-lakes-ice/10297547/

    By the way Alaska has been cooling in recent years. This too is worse than we thought. I wonder that those first / first again climate refugees are going to do?

    http://climate.gi.alaska.edu/ClimTrends/Change/TempChange.html

  50. schno1nose says:
    June 11, 2014 at 11:26 am
    if we relocate the “new” illegal immigrants to Greenland, in 50 years (as the models infer) they can be herding burritos and harvesting tacos. Heck, they can be their own bosses. They would not have to worry about gangs and sex crimes. they can leave behind all the things that make their countries suck. Hallafrickinluha. Hey Obama ya got yer ears on?

    WOW! It’s lucky this post was only about ice round Arctic lakes, and not something really controversial…..

  51. Take a look at the ‘Exposed Former Lake Bottom':

    http://www.eurekalert.org/multimedia/pub/74543.php?from=269724

    First of all, it is not the ‘lake bottom’ but a very little strip at the edge. The lake appears to have lost about a foot, maybe two, of water in the recent past. From that picture, I do not believe the lake could ever have been 5 meters higher than it is now.

    Did they check for possible new drainage routes from the lake?

    Yet another climate paper consisting mainly of idle speculation. Par for the course.

    Disclosure: I haven’t paid to read the paper so I’m basing my comments on the lame abstract (and the two images).

  52. I worked in Northern Saskatchewan, Northern Alberta, and the North West Territories. If you look up a map of perma-frost and the discontinuous areas of perma-frost, you will see that perm-frost extends a lot further south than most people realize, and in places like Alaska, it is not so “permeant” as you may expect. Permafrost is often encountered under willows, areas of deep forest litter (yes FOREST), muskeg and moss in areas quite far south (as well as in high mountains).

    It is therefore, no surprise that they found permafrost under willows and leaf litter on the edge of a receding lake. With a bit of insulation, there is not enough heat from the air to thaw the insulated ground and the area redevelops perm-frost. Permafrost goes a long way south:

    http://nsidc.org/data/ggd318

    http://http-server.carleton.ca/~msmith2/current_pf.htm

    With reference to the last link, it appears that Twelvemile Lake (1500 feet) near Willow, AK, and 39 miles north of Anchorage is in a zone of “isolated” permafrost and next to a zone generally free of permafrost. If I have the correct Twelvemile Lake, it is nice and close to Anchorage and easy to study. It should be noted that a large part of the interior of Alaska is discontinuous permafrost. Only the north slopes are continuous and thick permafrost.

    Oh nos! It’s not worse than we thought.

    By the way, even if it was in a permafrost area, the active layer can be anywhere from a few feet to 12 feet deep. (The active layer is that layer that thaws in summer, and not necessarily every summer. We used to build structures on deep piles and grease and wrap the top portion of the piles to prevent frost jacking the structures out of the ground.

    What they say about some lakes “changing” is true and observable from satellite photos. However, most of those lakes are in zones of discontinuous permafrost and there may be many reasons for the change. Given that they are lakes with fish in them, they likely don’t freeze to the bottom too often. Like all things, there are likely many factors.

  53. This is Twelvemile Lake’s lat and long, it is on the Yukon Flats:

    66°27’06.58″ N 145°32’17.04″ W

    In Google Earth you will see it is surrounded by lakes in a similar condition – thousands of them.

  54. Addition to last post and prior comments: Many lakes in the north sit on top of permafrost. If you have ever flown over the arctic in early September when it is still fairly warm during the day, you will see ice forming on lakes. When i asked about it, I was told that it was because they were cooing from the bottom. I discussed it with an associate who worked for Environment Canada who studied the north and he confirmed the observation. Whether true or not, it is what a lot of northerners believe. Maybe a bit too many references, but I spent close to 13 years working on cold weather projects involving studying ground temperature profiles many years ago and I still find it interesting.

    There are many monitoring stations of permafrost around the world.

    And while I don’t subscribe to the CO2 thing, the permafrost monitoring stations show warming, although a few are starting to show cooling (1979-2012). The record is generally too short to conclude much. There is likely a great deal of inertia in a ground temperature measuring system, though other readers hear would know better. Note the lag in ground temperature change under a lake after drainage in the third item below. I suspect surrounding ocean temperature has a lot of impact on many of the monitoring sites.

    http://www.alaskool.org/resources/regional/nw_reg_pro/permafrost.html

    http://www.arctic.noaa.gov/reportcard/permafrost.html

    http://pubs.aina.ucalgary.ca/cpc/CPC4-3.pdf (Temperature profile under arctic lake)

    http://permafrost.gi.alaska.edu/project/permafrost-observatory-barrow

  55. They are called Talik’s
    Talik An unfrozen section of ground found above, below, or within a layer of discontinuous permafrost. These layers can also be found beneath water bodies in a layer of continuous permafrost. A number of different types of talik have been distinguished: closed talik, open talik, and through talik.

    They are very common in Alaska, Canada and Russia. The ground beneath the lake doesn’t freeze, and when the lake either drains or evaporates, willows start to grow, and the permafrost forms.

  56. “But they… quickly concluded that, given the current rate of climate change, it won’t last beyond the end of this century.”

    Why the use of the word ”quickly”? They must have suddenly realised that their findings meant the end of the line for funding. Better not give it a second thought then. Apply the dramatic conclusion QUICK. Phew! that was close.

    Eamon.

  57. Alan Robertson says:
    June 11, 2014 at 6:18 am
    /////////////////////

    It was tried on this site, about a year or so a go. It was not a success, and I am pleased that it was withdrawn.

  58. As the lake recedes, bands of willow shrubs have grown up on the newly exposed lake shores over the past twenty years. What Martin Briggs from the U.S. Geological Survey and Prof. Jeffrey McKenzie from McGill’s Dept. of Earth and Planetary Science have just discovered is that the extra shade provided by these willow shrubs has both cooled and dried the surrounding soil, allowing new permafrost to expand beneath them.

    From death trains – to death trees! Yes – yes its those terrible trees! Look at all those trees in the top photo of the grass-surrounded lake! A hideous Fangorn forest! The trees of Birnam Wood are advancing toward Dunsinane! The Ents are slouching toward Bethlehem! And we’re to blame! O mea culpa! Who will intercede and atone for our sins, our sowing this forest of apocalypse!

    Umm where are the trees?

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