Unfrozen Permafrost Presence in Shrub-Dominated Landscapes

Date Published
Field observations and model simulations confirm the presence of unfrozen permafrost in shrub-dominated landscapes.
  • Couple surface and subsurface thermal-hydrology in permafrost landscapes and simulate the timing and magnitude of talik formation associated with shrubs and snow.
New Science
  • Shrubs, especially tall shrubs, trap snow and provide an insulating layer that keeps ground warmer than the surrounding landscape.
  • Increases in groundwater discharge due to talik formation can contribute to the observed increases in Arctic river discharge during the winter and spring snowmelt period.
  • Numerical experiments explain that the transition from continuous to discontinuous permafrost can happen quickly, and create new pathways for water flow in hillslope environments.
Image with caption

Schematic of modeling transect showing simulated formation of talik (e.g., unfrozen soil) beneath shrubs that capture snow, and hence influence ground thermal regime during the winter.


Jafarov, EE, ET Coon, DR Harp, CJ Wilson, SL Painter, AL Atchley, and VE Romanovsky. 2018. Modeling the role of preferential snow accumulation in through talik development and hillslope groundwater flow in transitional permafrost landscape. Environmental Research Letters 13:105006. https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/aadd30


This research was supported by the Director, Office of Science, Office of Biological and Environmental Research of the US Department of Energy under Contract No. DE-AC02-05CH11231 as part of the Next-Generation Ecosystem Experiments (NGEE Arctic) project.

For more information, please contact:

Elchin Jafarov