IPA Action Group: The Yedoma Region

Ice-rich permafrost is especially vulnerable to Arctic warming.

Background: Vast portions of Arctic Siberia, Alaska and the Yukon Territory are covered by ice-rich silts that are penetrated by large ice wedges, resulting from syngenetic sedimentation and freezing. Accompanied by wedge-ice growth, the sedimentation process was driven by cold continental climatic and environmental conditions in unglaciated regions during the late Pleistocene (Schirrmeister et al. 2013) inducing the accumulation of the unique Yedoma deposits up to 50 m thick. Because of fast incorporation of organic material into permafrost during sedimentation, Yedoma deposits include low-degraded organic matter. Moreover, Yedoma deposits are especially prone to degradation triggered by climate changes or human activity. When Yedoma deposits degrade, large amounts of sequestered carbon as well as other nutrients are released to the geosystem, which is of global significance for the climate system.

Objectives: The proposed Action Group is a continuation of the successful session “Yedoma origin, records and future projections in a changing Arctic”, which took place at the 4th European Conference on Permafrost. Following the IPA constitution, we encourag researchers to join the group. Moreover, according to the IPA objectives, we aim (1) to foster the dissemination of permafrost knowledge, and (2) to develop scientific products which are useful for scientific application and for educational outreach. To reach these goals, this proposed Action Group aims to synthesize and generate data on the circum-arctic distribution and thickness of Yedoma permafrost. The quantification of the Yedoma coverage will beconducted by the digitalization of surface geological and Quaternary geological maps according to Grosse et al. (2013) and by the analysis of remote sensing data (Kanevskiy et al. 2011, Ulrich et al. 2014, Veremeeva and Gubin 2009). This will be connected with data on Yedoma thickness revealed from drilling sites and outcrop measurements as reported in the scientific literature.

Statement of significance: Yedoma deposits, due to their ice-rich nature, are especially prone to degradation under current climate scenarios in Siberia, Alaska and Yukon. Increased permafrost thaw could cause a feedback loop of global significance. Therefore, a detailed assessment of the Yedoma deposit volume (coverage and thickness) is of importance to estimate its potential future climate response. Our results will be connected to the database-product of the Action Group “New Assessment of the deep Permafrost organic carbon pool using the Northern Circumpolar Soil Carbon Database”, lead by Gustav Hugelius. Moreover, as a step beyond the objectives of this Action group, our proposed product is needed to refine Yedoma inventory data as published e.g. by Strauss et al. (2013), Hugelius et al. (2014) and Walter Anthony et al. (2014).

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