Statistical modelling predicts almost complete loss of major periglacial processes in Northern Europe by 2100
Nature Publishing Group
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The periglacial realm is a major part of the cryosphere, covering a quarter of Earth’s land surface. Cryogenic land surface processes (LSPs) control landscape development, ecosystem functioning and climate through biogeochemical feedbacks, but their response to contemporary climate change is unclear. Here, by statistically modelling the current and future distributions of four major LSPs unique to periglacial regions at fine scale, we show fundamental changes in the periglacial climate realm are inevitable with future climate change. Even with the most optimistic CO2 emissions scenario (Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP) 2.6) we predict a 72% reduction in the current periglacial climate realm by 2050 in our climatically sensitive northern Europe study area. These impacts are projected to be especially severe in high-latitude continental interiors. We further predict that by the end of the twenty-first century active periglacial LSPs will exist only at high elevations. These results forecast a future tipping point in the operation of cold-region LSP, and predict fundamental landscape-level modifications in ground conditions and related atmospheric feedbacks.
We thank M. Kämäräinen for providing the global CMIP5 climate simulation data. J.A. and M.L. were funded by the Academy of Finland (decision 286950). S.H. acknowledges the funding from HELIX funded by European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration under grant agreement no 603864.
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Vol. 8, Art. No. 515