How climate change is destroying the Arctic coast – for the first time calculated the loss of future land

A scientist who studies coastal erosion caused by the thawing of permafrost in the area of ​​the Bykovsky Peninsula, the Laptev Sea, Siberia, Russia. Credit: AWI / Paul Overduen

Erosion destroys the Arctic coast. Soil warming, which leads to ruptures and precipitation, can jeopardize important infrastructure and threaten the safety of the local population. In addition, these processes release carbon stored in the soil into the ocean, which could change the role of the Arctic Ocean as an important repository of carbon and greenhouse gases. They can also contribute to increased climate change.

Until now, there has been a lack of understanding of the scale and speed of these changes. Using a new combination of computational models, scientists at the University of Hamburg first identified them for the entire Arctic.

“We’ve gone through a number of scenarios, depending on how much greenhouse gas humanity will emit in the coming years,” said lead author Dr David Nielsen of the CLICCS cluster of excellence in climate research at the University of Hamburg. “According to research, in absolute terms, not only is more and more land being lost; with each degree of temperature increase, the annual rate of erosion increases – in meters, but also in millions of tons of carbon. If greenhouse gas emissions remain uncontrolled or continue to rise, their rate could more than double by 2100, which would mean erosion losses of up to three meters a year.

The new study provides important information for coastal protection as well as for political and social planning in the affected regions. At the same time, estimates of future erosion rates are an indispensable basis for studies of the interaction between permafrost thawing and carbon emissions in the Arctic, aspects that can mutually reinforce. According to Nielsen: “Our findings also show that a shift towards greater resilience and much lower greenhouse gas emissions could slow acceleration in the second half of the century. However, it will not be possible to stop the loss of land completely. “

Together with other researchers from the University of Hamburg, the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, the Alfred Wegener Institute, the Helmholtz Center for Polar and Marine Research and the German Meteorological Service, Nielsen first calculated the future balance of the Arctic as a whole. – an important achievement, as coastal erosion varies greatly from region to region. “In the Arctic, erosion is always a combination of thermal and mechanical factors,” explains the climate researcher. Therefore, his calculations link existing models of the Earth’s system with observational data, wave simulations and re-climate analysis: “Depending on the location and shape of the relevant coast, we expect the wave height to be different. As the temperature rises the wave range also increases as the sea ice disappears. In addition, in the summer without ice lengthens, which makes the shores even more vulnerable.

Reference: “Increasing Arctic Coastal Erosion and Its Sensitivity to Warming in the Twenty-First Century” by David Markallin Nielsen, Patrick Piper, Armine Barkhardarian, Paul Overduin, Tatiana Ilyina, Victor Brovkin, Johanna Bayer and Mikhail Lucky Dobrynin. Nature Climate change.
DOI: 10.1038 / s41558-022-01281-0

Dr. David Nielsen is conducting research on possible and likely climatic futures in the CLICCS (Climate Change, Climate Change and Society) cluster of excellence at the University of Hamburg. He is also a member of the Center for Earth Research and Sustainable Development (CEN) at the University of Hamburg. The study was conducted in close collaboration with the Nunataryuk project with the support of the Horizon 2020 European Research Program. How climate change is destroying the Arctic coast – for the first time calculated the loss of future land

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