Modelling geomorphic response to climatic change

  • Couture N
  • Pollard W
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Abstract

This paper develops a three-step thaw model to assess the impact of predicted warming on an ice-rich polar desert landscape in the Canadian high Arctic. Air temperatures are established for two climate scenarios, showing mean annual increases of 4.9 and 6.5°C. This leads to a lengthening of the summer thaw season by up to 26 days and increased thaw depths of 12–70 cm, depending on the thermal properties of the soil. Subsidence of the ground surface is the primary landscape response to warming and is shown to be a function of the amount and type of ground ice in various cryostratigraphic units. In areas of pore ice and thin ice lenses with a low density of ice wedges, subsidence may be as much as 32 cm. In areas with a high density of ice wedges, subsidence will be slightly higher at 34 cm. Where massive ice is present, subsidence will be greater than 1 m. Landscape response to new climate conditions can take up to 15 years, and may be as long as 50 years in certain cases.

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Authors

  • Nicole J. Couture

  • Wayne H. Pollard

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