There are massive carbon stocks stored in permafrost-affected soils due to the 3-D soil movement process called cryoturbation. For a reliable projection of the past, recent and future Arctic carbon balance, and hence climate, a reliable concept for representing cryoturbation in a land surface model (LSM) is required. The basis of the underlying transport processes is pedon-scale heterogeneity of soil hydrological and thermal properties as well as insulating layers, such as snow and vegetation. Today we still lack a concept of how to reliably represent pedon-scale properties and processes in a LSM. One possibility could be a statistical approach. This perspective paper demonstrates the importance of sub-grid heterogeneity in permafrost soils as a pre-requisite to implement any lateral transport parametrization. Representing such heterogeneity at the sub-pixel size of a LSMis the next logical step of model advancements. As a result of a theoretical experiment, heterogeneity of thermal and hydrological soil properties alone lead to a remarkable initial sub-grid range of subsoil temperature of 2◦ C, and active-layer thickness of 150 cmin East Siberia. These results showthe way forward in representing combined lateral and vertical transport of water and soil in LSMs.
Beer, C. (2016). Permafrost sub-grid heterogeneity of soil properties key for 3-D soil processes and future climate projections. Frontiers in Earth Science, 4. https://doi.org/10.3389/feart.2016.00081