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Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences


Permafrost warming and degradation is well documented across the Arctic. However, observation- and model-based studies typically consider thaw to occur at 0°C, neglecting the widespread occurrence of saline permafrost in coastal plain regions. In this study, we document rapid saline permafrost thaw below a shallow arctic lake. Over the 15-year period, the lakebed subsided by 0.6 m as ice-rich, saline permafrost thawed. Repeat transient electromagnetic measurements show that near-surface bulk sediment electrical conductivity increased by 198% between 2016 and 2022. Analysis of wintertime Synthetic Aperture Radar satellite imagery indicates a transition from a bedfast to a floating ice lake with brackish water due to saline permafrost thaw. The regime shift likely contributed to the 65% increase in thermokarst lake lateral expansion rates. Our results indicate that thawing saline permafrost may be contributing to an increase in landscape change rates in the Arctic faster than anticipated.

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© 2023. The Authors. Publisher’s version of record:

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Geophysical Research Letters


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