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The Cryosphere An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2018-229
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2018-229
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 16 Nov 2018

Research article | 16 Nov 2018

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This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal The Cryosphere (TC).

Organic matter across subsea permafrost thaw horizons on the East Siberian Arctic Shelf

Birgit Wild1,2, Natalia Shakhova3, Oleg Dudarev3,4, Alexey Ruban3, Denis Kosmach4, Vladimir Tumskoy5,6,7, Tommaso Tesi8, Hanna Joß1, Helena Alexanderson9, Martin Jakobsson2,10, Alexey Mazurov3, Igor Semiletov3,4, and Örjan Gustafsson1,2 Birgit Wild et al.
  • 1Department of Environmental Science and Analytical Chemistry, Stockholm University, Stockholm, 11418, Sweden
  • 2Bolin Centre for Climate Research, Stockholm University, Stockholm, 11418, Sweden
  • 3Tomsk Polytechnic University, Tomsk, 634050, Russia
  • 4Pacific Oceanological Institute, Russian Academy of Sciences, Vladivostok, 690041, Russia
  • 5Moscow State University, Moscow, 119991, Russia
  • 6Institute of Geography, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, 119017, Russia
  • 7University of Tyumen, Tyumen, 625003, Russia
  • 8Institute of Marine Sciences, National Research Council (ISMAR-CNR), Bologna, 40129, Italy
  • 9Department of Geology, Lund University, Lund, 22361, Sweden
  • 10Department of Geological Sciences, Stockholm University, Stockholm, 11418, Sweden

Abstract. Thaw of subsea permafrost across the Arctic Ocean shelves might promote the degradation of organic matter to CO2 and CH4, but also create conduits for transfer of deeper CH4 pools to the atmosphere and thereby amplify global warming. In this study, we describe sedimentary characteristics of three subsea permafrost cores of 21–56m length drilled near the current delta of the Lena River in the Buor–Khaya Bay on the East Siberian Arctic Shelf, including content, origin and degradation state of organic matter around the current thaw front. Grain size distribution and optically stimulated luminescence dating suggest the alternating deposition of aeolian silt and fluvial sand over the past 160000 years. Organic matter in 3m sections across the current permafrost table was characterized by low organic carbon contents (average 0.7±0.2%) as well as enriched δ13C values and low concentrations of the terrestrial plant biomarker lignin compared to other recent and Pleistocene deposits in the study region. The lignin phenol composition further suggests contribution of both tundra and boreal forest vegetation, at least the latter likely deposited by rivers. Our findings indicate high variability in organic matter composition of subsea permafrost even within a small study area, reflecting its development in a heterogeneous and dynamic landscape. Even with this relatively low organic carbon content, the high rates of observed subsea permafrost thaw in this area yield a thaw-out of 1.6kgOCm−2year−1, emphasizing the need to constrain the fate of the poorly described and thawing subsea permafrost organic carbon pool.

Birgit Wild et al.
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The thaw and degradation of subsea permafrost on the Arctic Ocean shelves is one of the key uncertainties concerning natural greenhouse gas emissions since difficult access limits the availability of observational data. In this study, we describe sediment properties and age constraints of a unique set of three subsea permafrost cores from the East Siberian Arctic Shelf, as well as content, origin and degradation state of organic matter at the current thaw front.
The thaw and degradation of subsea permafrost on the Arctic Ocean shelves is one of the key...
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