Global warming has changed Canada’s landscape at high northern latitudes

Canadian scientists analyzed field survey data in the country’s high-latitude Arctic region and found that global warming is accelerating or driving the region’s permafrost melting and dramatic environmental changes. The study based on a reconstruction of the landscape evolution of an area of Canada’s Arctic archipelago over the past 60 years. The study was published September 12 in Nature Communications.

Since the eighties of the last century, the climate warming in the Arctic has been expanding, and the accelerated melting of permafrost has dramatically affected and changed the Arctic landscape. The thawing of permafrost will release a large amount of carbon storage and accelerate global warming, which is of great practical significance. However, the impact of the physical processes of permafrost thawing on landscape changes in the region is unclear.

Using field observations, physical models, and environmental data collected in 2019, Shawn Chartrand of Simon Fraser University and colleagues studied landscape change and waterway development in the early stages of thawing and thawing permafrost in the Muskox Valley on Axelheimburg Island. They compared the data collected with 1959 imagery to reconstruct the landscape evolution of the area over a 60-year period.

The researchers found that the structure and evolution of the new river network in the region was influenced by changes in geometric ground patterns associated with permafrost thawing. In the current warming climate, locally accelerated rates of substrate erosion and ice wedge heat degradation or surface collapse over time. They also found that the factors commonly used to predict river course development in non-permafrost areas did not affect landscape evolution in the Arctic.

The findings help to understand what underlying processes determine the response of Arctic and high-altitude permafrost landscapes to global warming, characterized by increased summer variability.

The warming climate has caused creeks to appear in the permafrost and snowfields. Image from the author

(Source: Feng Weiwei, China Science News)

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