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Summary of Proposal LAN0351

TitleTesting high-resolution Terra-SAR-X data to assess greenhouse gas emissions of thermokarst lakes in the Arctic A contribution to understanding arctic carbon dynamics during the IPY
Investigator Grosse, Guido - University of Alaska Fairbanks, Geophysical Institute
Team Member
Prof. Walter, Katey - University of Alaska Fairbanks, Institute of Northern Engineering
Mrs. Engram, Melanie - University of Alaska Fairbanks, Institute of Northern Engineering
SummaryThe current funding for this project comes from NSF and NASA. Funding from two proposals with NASA and NSF covers one M.Sc. student (M. Engram) focusing on SAR data analysis of thermokarst lakes, as well as extended multi-year field campaigns from 2008-2011 in Alaska and Siberia. Another proposal is submitted to DOE for additional funding. Both PIs Grosse and Walter have sufficient salaries through University of Alaska funding. One graduate student (M.Sc. student D. Vas) is funded trough faculty start-up funds of K. Walter and already pursuing the lake ice monitoring program around Fairbanks as well as initial Radarsat studies to detect methane bubbles in the lake ice. This project is a heavily IPY-related project with strong ties to the North Eurasian Earth Science Partnership Initiative (NEESPI). Within our two overarching projects we will study the dynamics of thermokarst lakes in the Arctic and related greenhouse gas emissions. Thermokarst depressions and thermokarst lakes dominate large areas of the arctic land surface and may expand as permafrost continues to warm and thaw, releasing large quantities of methane (CH4) and carbon dioxide (CO2) to the atmosphere. In our two ongoing NSF and NASA projects we proposed to define the relationship of thermokarst lakes to global climate change by developing remote sensing methods to quantify thermokarst and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from thermokarst lakes in regions (>1 million km2) of organic-rich, icy permafrost and ice-poor permafrost in Siberia and Alaska. We will use fine and broad scale remote sensing and field validation to determine the role of thermokarst as both a source (GHG release) and sink (peat accumulation) for carbon (C), thereby improving understanding of the behavior of a major C pool (icy permafrost) previously poorly considered in global C cycle sciences. Specifically, we will use remote-sensing based land cover classification and change detection to derive information about thermokarst distribution, initiation, and related changes in land surface properties to improve C-cycle and ecosystem models for Northern Hemisphere permafrost regions. One of the focus areas is to test new satellite-based techniques: SAR data will be evaluated for upscaling field-measurements of CH4 bubbling from lakes to regional estimates of lake CH4 emissions through the establishment of a Pan-Arctic Lake-Ice Methane Monitoring Network (PALIMMN). By integration of our remotely sensed spatial data, information derived from multi-temporal satellite data (50 years), radiocarbon dated thermokarst lake sediment records (up to ~15,000 years old), and available and predicted climatic data, we will inform the sophisticated 2-D and 3-D numerical permafrost models of our collaborators for prediction of spatial and temporal thermokarst dynamics and related GHG emissions in scenarios for up to 200 years into the future as permafrost warms and thaws under global warming. The acquisition and analysis of exceptionally high-resolution TerraSAR X data within the scope of these projects will contribute to our understanding of relationship between SAR remote sensing signal and methane trapped in lake ice. The unique TerraSAR-X data will be used to detect and quantify greenhouse gas emissions from thermokarst lakes at three study sites in the Arctic.

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