Alpine permafrost could account for a quarter of thawed carbon based on Plio-Pleistocene paleoclimate analogue

Feng Cheng*, Carmala Garzione, Xiangzhong Li, Ulrich Salzmann, Florian Schwarz, Alan M. Haywood, Julia Tindall, Junsheng Nie, Lin Li, Lin Wang, Benjamin W. Abbott, Ben Elliott, Weiguo Liu, Deepshikha Upadhyay, Alexandrea Arnold, Aradhna Tripati

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
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Abstract

Estimates of the permafrost-climate feedback vary in magnitude and sign, partly because permafrost carbon stability in warmer-than-present conditions is not well constrained. Here we use a Plio-Pleistocene lacustrine reconstruction of mean annual air temperature (MAAT) from the Tibetan Plateau, the largest alpine permafrost region on the Earth, to constrain past and future changes in permafrost carbon storage. Clumped isotope-temperatures (Δ47-T) indicate warmer MAAT (~1.2 °C) prior to 2.7 Ma, and support a permafrost-free environment on the northern Tibetan Plateau in a warmer-than-present climate. Δ47-T indicate ~8.1 °C cooling from 2.7 Ma, coincident with Northern Hemisphere glacial intensification. Combined with climate models and global permafrost distribution, these results indicate, under conditions similar to mid-Pliocene Warm period (3.3–3.0 Ma), ~60% of alpine permafrost containing ~85 petagrams of carbon may be vulnerable to thawing compared to ~20% of circumarctic permafrost. This estimate highlights ~25% of permafrost carbon and the permafrost-climate feedback could originate in alpine areas.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1329
Number of pages12
JournalNature Communications
Volume13
Issue number1
Early online date14 Mar 2022
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 14 Mar 2022

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