Spatio-temporal features of permafrost thaw projected from long-term high-resolution modeling for a region in the Hudson Bay Lowlands in Canada


  • Yu Zhang

    Corresponding author
    1. Canada Centre for Remote Sensing, Natural Resources Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
    • Corresponding author: Yu Zhang, Canada Centre for Remote Sensing, Natural Resources Canada, 588 Booth Street Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0Y7, Canada. (

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[1] Although studies agree that climate warming will cause permafrost thaw, projected permafrost conditions differ widely, and most projections use half degree latitude/longitude or coarser spatial resolution. Using a process-based model, this study projected changes of permafrost from 2010 to 2200 at 30 m by 30 m resolution for a region in the northwest of the Hudson Bay Lowlands in Canada. This long-term spatially detailed modeling revealed some general features of permafrost dynamics with climate warming. Temporally, permafrost degradation at a site can be divided into five stages: gradual-thawing stage, increased-thawing stage, frequent-talik stage, isothermal-permafrost stage, and permafrost-free stage. This study determined the beginning or ends of the stages for each grid cell and mapped the degradation stages in this region. Spatially, permafrost was predicted to become increasingly discontinuous with climate warming. By the end of the 22nd century, only 20% to 65% of the land area in this region will be underlain by permafrost. With the formation of taliks, the maximum summer thaw depth will increase significantly, and near-surface permafrost will disappear in many areas while permafrost at depth can persist for decades. Thus, the spatial distribution of near-surface permafrost and permafrost at depth can be very different. This study also shows that climate scenarios, the depth of permafrost considered, spatial resolution and associated ground conditions used for modeling could cause significant differences in permafrost projections.