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Remote Sens. 2014, 6(1), 621-636; doi:10.3390/rs6010621

Temporal Behavior of Lake Size-Distribution in a Thawing Permafrost Landscape in Northwestern Siberia

Department of Physical Geography and Quaternary Geology, Stockholm University, SE-106 91 Stockholm, Sweden
Bolin Centre for Climate Research, Stockholm University, SE-106 91 Stockholm, Sweden
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 14 November 2013 / Revised: 18 December 2013 / Accepted: 2 January 2014 / Published: 6 January 2014
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Hydrological Remote Sensing)
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Arctic warming alters regional hydrological systems, as permafrost thaw increases active layer thickness and in turn alters the pathways of water flow through the landscape. Further, permafrost thaw may change the connectivity between deeper and shallower groundwater and surface water altering the terrestrial water balance and distribution. Thermokarst lakes and wetlands in the Arctic offer a window into such changes as these landscape elements depend on permafrost and are some of the most dynamic and widespread features in Arctic lowland regions. In this study we used Landsat remotely sensed imagery to investigate potential shifts in thermokarst lake size-distributions, which may be brought about by permafrost thaw, over three distinct time periods (1973, 1987–1988, and 2007–2009) in three hydrological basins in northwestern Siberia. Results revealed fluctuations in total area and number of lakes over time, with both appearing and disappearing lakes alongside stable lakes. On the whole basin scales, there is no indication of any sustained long-term change in thermokarst lake area or lake size abundance over time. This statistical temporal consistency indicates that spatially variable change effects on local permafrost conditions have driven the individual lake changes that have indeed occurred over time. The results highlight the importance of using multi-temporal remote sensing data that can reveal complex spatiotemporal variations distinguishing fluctuations from sustained change trends, for accurate interpretation of thermokarst lake changes and their possible drivers in periods of climate and permafrost change. View Full-Text
Keywords: remote sensing; hydrology; catchment; thermokarst lakes; permafrost; size-distribution; Siberia remote sensing; hydrology; catchment; thermokarst lakes; permafrost; size-distribution; Siberia

This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0).

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Karlsson, J.M.; Lyon, S.W.; Destouni, G. Temporal Behavior of Lake Size-Distribution in a Thawing Permafrost Landscape in Northwestern Siberia. Remote Sens. 2014, 6, 621-636.

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