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Project Description

The key objectives of PAGE21 are:
  • to improve our understanding of the processes affecting the size of the arctic permafrost carbon and nitrogen pools through detailed field studies and monitoring, in order to quantify their size and their vulnerability to climate change,
  • to produce, assemble and assess high-quality datasets in order to develop and evaluate representations of permafrost and related processes in global models,
  • to improve these models accordingly,
  • to use these models to reduce the uncertainties in feedbacks from arctic permafrost to global change, thereby providing the means to assess the feasibility of stabilization scenarios, and
  • to ensure widespread dissemination of our results in order to provide direct input into the ongoing debate on climate-change mitigation.



The PAGE21 Consortium

The PAGE21 consortium is be made up of leading European and international permafrost specialists, covering the entire spectrum of research from field studies, process studies, and remote sensing to global climate modeling. The consortium consists of 18 international partners from the following countries: Austria, Denmark, Germany, Finland, France, Great Britain, Island, Netherlands, Norway, Russian Federation and Sweden. PAGE21 will form the basis for accurate representation of permafrost-related processes in global climate projections, the lack of which has, until now, hampered assessments of the feedbacks of Arctic carbon pools to global climate change.

PAGE21 will gather together the three major European modeling groups (MPI-ECHAM6, HADGEM, and IPSL-CM5) dealing with coupled climate models that include a comprehensive representation of the relevant aspects of continental biogeochemical cycles as well as a dynamic vegetation component and parameterizations of the physical and hydrological effects of soil freezing. The European partners cooperate closely with international experts from Russian Federation, North America, Canada and Japan.

Seven members of the IPCC 5th Assessment Working Group will participate in PAGE21, ensuring a high visibility and a strong impact for the results of this project. The consortium is led by Professor Dr. Hans-Wolfgang Hubberten, ensuring that the results of this project will contribute directly to the existing permafrost monitoring frameworks and to further research into permafrost and climate change.



In a truly original approach the project will combine field measurements of permafrost processes, pools, and fluxes, with remote sensing data and global climate models at local, regional and, for the first time, pan-Arctic scales. The output from this research will help to advance our understanding of permafrost processes at multiple scales, resulting in improvements in global numerical permafrost modeling and the ensuing future climate projections, as well as in the assessment of stabilization scenarios.

These outputs will feed into global assessments and international monitoring programs, in which most of the consortium members are already actively participating in leading roles. This project will, in particular, provide projections on a pan-Arctic scale of greenhouse gas releases from the projected thawing of permafrost terrain during the 21st century, with direct implications for global policy discussions on emission reduction targets.



The Work Plan

The work plan for PAGE21 is organized along two axes, both covering the entire project duration from 2011 until 2015.

  • The first axis, comprising Work Packages (WPs) 2, 3, 4 and 5, will involve observational studies and improved monitoring, as well as process studies utilizing key observations, to improve our understanding of the landscape processes (thermokarst, cryoturbation, coastal erosion) that determine the size of the Arctic carbon and nitrogen pools and their vulnerability to climate change. Important landscape-level processes to be studied will include active layer deepening, permafrost thawing, ground subsidence, and thermokarst erosion, together with associated changes in ecosystem function, carbon and nutrient mobilization, and surface hydrology. These studies will be based on 5 key sites covering the range of bioclimatic and permafrost zones, located around the entire circum-Arctic area.
  • The second axis (WPs 6 and 7) will focus solely on improving the representation of permafrost-related processes (such as thermokarst processes, "cold soil" biogeochemistry, permafrost hydrology, and snow-vegetation-soil interactions) in land surface modules of coupled global climate models. These models will subsequently be used to quantify permafrost-related feedbacks to global change in both offline and online (coupled) models. The results will form the basis for assessments of climate change stabilization scenarios.

These two axes are closely linked through a direct and ongoing transfer of expertise and data into the large-scale modeling activities, including the production of databases covering long time periods for critical, remotely-sensed biogeophysical parameters and variables. Furthermore, the participants in the modeling axis will also improve their understanding of permafrost and periglacial processes by visiting some of the field sites during the course of the project.


The PAGE21 time interval

The time interval addressed by the PAGE21 project will include the recent past and the nex thundred years. An improved understanding of processes may require temporal resolutions in observation and modeling of up to the order of minutes (e.g. for energy fluxes), but there are also very slow processes at play (e.g. thermokarst formation, coastal erosion, ice-wedge dynamics and other landscape changes) that require the long-term monitoring programs covered in PAGE21. The deterministic land surface models to be used in PAGE21 will bridge these time scales. In addition, our advisory board has been carefully chosen to include expertise on longer, palaeoclimatological, time scales that are not directly expressed in the call, but which are necessary in terms of understanding the origin an nature of the arctic carbon and nitrogen pools, which were partially formed by Pleistocene and Holocene organic matter. We will specifically focus on improving global models. These automatically set the spatial scale of the modeling activities to the order of 100 km, which is coherent with remote sensing data but clearly not directly applicable comparable to ongoing landform changes at local scales. This will, however, not be a problem as the large-scale models to be used in PAGE21 will be developed and tested against site-scale observations. PAGE21 is designed to allow the direct transfer of knowledge at site and landscape scales, based on observations and expertise, to the large-scale models. Particular efforts will be devoted to parameterization of sub-grid scale variability in our model development work.

IntroductionKey Questions - Expected Impacts