Active layer thickness variations on the Qinghai–Tibet Plateau under the scenarios of climate change
Climate change has greatly influenced the permafrost regions on the Qinghai–Tibet Plateau (QTP). Most general circulation models (GCMs) project that global warming will continue and the amplitude will amplify during the twenty-first century. Climate change has caused extensive degradation of permafrost, including thickening of the active layer, rising of ground temperature, melting of ground ice, expansion of taliks, and disappearance of sporadic permafrost. The changes in the active layer thickness (ALT) greatly impact the energy balance of the land surface, hydrological cycle, ecosystems and engineering infrastructures in the cold regions. ALT is affected by climatic, geographic and geological factors. A model based on Kudryavtsev’s formulas is used to study the potential changes of ALT in the permafrost regions on the QTP. Maps of ALT for the year 2049 and 2099 on the QTP are projected under GCM scenarios. Results indicate that ALT will increase with the rising air temperature. ALT may increase by 0.1–0.7 m for the year 2049 and 0.3–1.2 m for the year 2099. The average increment of ALT is 0.8 m with the largest increment of 1.2 m under the A1F1 scenario and 0.4 m with the largest increment of 0.6 m under the B1 scenario during the twenty-first century. ALT changes significantly in sporadic permafrost regions, while in the continuous permafrost regions of the inland plateau ALT change is relatively smaller. The largest increment of ALT occurs in the northeastern and southwestern plateaus under both scenarios because of higher ground temperatures and lower soil moisture content in these regions.
KeywordsPermafrost Active layer The Qinghai–Tibet Plateau Climate change
The authors express gratitude to the anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments and suggestions and are also grateful for the help of colleagues in the Cryosphere Research Station on Qinghai–Xizang Plateau. This research is supported by the Global Change Research Program of China (2010CB951404) and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Nos. 40830533; 41101069).
- Cheng G (1979) Difference between Qinghai-Tibet Plateau permafrost and north Canada permafrost. J Glaciol Geocryol 2:39–43 (in Chinese with English abstract)Google Scholar
- Cheng G, Wu T (2007) Responses of permafrost to climate change and their environmental significance, Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. J Geophys Res 112:F02S03. doi: 10.1029/2006JF000631
- Cheng G, Huang X, Kang X (1993) Recent permafrost degradation along the Qinghai-Tibet Highway. In: Permafrost sixth international conference proceedings, vol 2. South China University of Technology Press, Wushan, pp 1010–1013Google Scholar
- Hinzman LD, Bettez ND, Bolton WR et al (2005) Evidence and implications of recent climate change in northern Alaska and other arctic regions. Climatic Change 72:251–298Google Scholar
- IPCC (2007) Climate change 2007: the physical science basis. Contribution of Working Group to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
- Kudryavtsev VA, Garagulya LS, Kondrat’yeva KA, Melamed VG (1974) Fundamentals of frost forecasting in geological engineering investigations. Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory, HanoverGoogle Scholar
- Li X, Cheng G (1999) A GIS-aided response model of high altitude permafrost to global change. Sci China (Ser D) 42:72–79Google Scholar
- Li S, Cheng G, Guo D (1996) The future thermal regime of numerical simulating permafrost on Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, China, under climate warming. Sci China (Ser D) 39:434–441Google Scholar
- Wu Q, Shen Y, Shi B (2003) Relationship between frozen soil together with water-heat process and ecological environment in the Tibetan Plateau. J Glaciol Geocryol 25:250–254 (in Chinese with English abstract)Google Scholar
- Wu J, Sheng Y, Yu H, Li J (2007) Permafrost in the middle-east section of Qilian Mountains: characters of permafrost. J Glaciol Geocryol 29:426–432 (in Chinese with English abstract)Google Scholar
- Zhang T, Frauenfeld OW, Serreze MC, Etringer A, Oelke C, McCreight J, Barry RG, Gilichinsky D, Yang D, Ye H, Ling F, Chudinova S (2005) Spatial and temporal variability in active layer thickness over the Russian Arctic drainage basin. J Geophys Res 110:D16101. doi: 10.1029/2004JD005642 CrossRefGoogle Scholar