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Journal Article

Attributing observed permafrost warming in the northern hemisphere to anthropogenic climate change


Gudmundsson,  Lukas
External Organizations;

Kirchner,  Josefine
External Organizations;


Gädeke,  Anne
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research;

Noetzli,  Jeannette
External Organizations;

Biskaborn,  Boris K.
External Organizations;

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Gudmundsson, L., Kirchner, J., Gädeke, A., Noetzli, J., Biskaborn, B. K. (2022): Attributing observed permafrost warming in the northern hemisphere to anthropogenic climate change. - Environmental Research Letters, 17, 9, 095014.

Cite as: https://publications.pik-potsdam.de/pubman/item/item_27378
Permafrost temperatures are increasing globally with the potential of adverse environmental and socio-economic impacts. Nonetheless, the attribution of observed permafrost warming to anthropogenic climate change has relied mostly on qualitative evidence. Here, we compare long permafrost temperature records from 15 boreholes in the northern hemisphere to simulated ground temperatures from Earth System models contributing to CMIP6 using a climate change detection and attribution approach. We show that neither pre-industrial climate variability nor natural drivers of climate change suffice to explain the observed warming in permafrost temperature averaged over all boreholes. However, simulations are consistent with observations if the effects of human emissions on the global climate system are considered. Moreover, our analysis reveals that the effect of anthropogenic climate change on permafrost temperature is detectable at some of the boreholes. Thus, the presented evidence supports the conclusion that anthropogenic climate change is the key driver of northern hemisphere permafrost warming.