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The Cryosphere An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 09 Jul 2019

Submitted as: research article | 09 Jul 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. A revision of the manuscript is under review for the journal The Cryosphere (TC).

Soil Moisture and Hydrology Projections of the Permafrost Region: A Model Intercomparison

Christian G. Andresen1,2, David M. Lawrence3, Cathy J. Wilson1, A. David McGuire4, Charles Koven5, Kevin Schaefer6, Elchin Jafarov6,1, Shushi Peng7, Xiaodong Chen8, Isabelle Gouttevin9,10, Eleanor Burke11, Sarah Chadburn12, Douying Ji13, Guangsheng Chen14, Daniel Hayes15, and Wenxing Zhang16,17 Christian G. Andresen et al.
  • 1Earth and Environmental Science Division, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, New Mexico, USA
  • 2Geography Department, University of Wisconsin Madison, Madison, Wisconsin, USA
  • 3National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado, USA
  • 4Institute of Arctic Biology, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, Alaska, USA
  • 5Climate and Ecosystem Sciences Division, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, Berkeley, CA, USA
  • 6Institute of Arctic Alpine Research, University of Colorado Boulder, Boulder, Colorado, USA
  • 7UJF–Grenoble 1/CNRS, Laboratoire de Glaciologie et Géophysique de l’Environnement (LGGE), Grenoble, France
  • 8Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA
  • 9IRSTEA-HHLY, Lyon, France
  • 10IRSTEA-ETNA, Grenoble, France
  • 11Met Office Hadley Centre, UK
  • 12School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds, UK
  • 13College of Global Change and Earth System Science, Beijing Normal University, China
  • 14Environmental Sciences Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, USA
  • 15School of Forest Resources, University of Maine, Maine, USA
  • 16Department of Physical Geography and Ecosystem Science, Lund University, Lund, Sweden
  • 17Center for Permafrost (CENPERM), Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management, University of Copenhagen, Denmark

Abstract. This study investigates and compares soil moisture and hydrology projections of broadly-used land models with permafrost processes and highlights the causes and impacts of permafrost zone soil moisture projections. Climate models project warmer temperatures and increases in precipitation (P) which will intensify evapotranspiration (ET) and runoff in land models. However, this study shows that most models project a long-term drying of the surface soil (0–20 cm) for the permafrost region despite increases in the net air-surface water flux (P-ET). Drying is generally explained by infiltration of moisture to deeper soil layers as the active layer deepens or permafrost thaws completely. Although most models agree on drying, the projections vary strongly in magnitude and spatial pattern. Land-models tend to agree with the decadal runoff trends but underestimate runoff volume when compared to gauge data across the major Arctic river basins, potentially indicating model structural limitations. In general, current generation land models lack representation of important landscape processes that drive uncertainty of the future hydrological state of the Arctic, and ultimately limits our capability to predict associated land-atmosphere biogeochemical processes across spatial and temporal scales.

Christian G. Andresen et al.
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Christian G. Andresen et al.
Christian G. Andresen et al.
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Publications Copernicus
Short summary
Widely-used land models project near-surface drying of the terrestrial Arctic despite increases in the net water balance driven by climate change. Drying was generally associated with increases of active layer depth and permafrost thaw in a warming climate. However, models lack important mechanisms such as thermokarst and soil subsidence that will change the hydrological regime and add to the large uncertainty in the future Arctic hydrological state and the associated permafrost-carbon feedback.
Widely-used land models project near-surface drying of the terrestrial Arctic despite increases...