Indexed on: 09 Mar '16Published on: 02 Dec '15Published in: Permafrost and Periglacial Processes
Permafrost and varying land surface properties greatly complicate modelling of the thermal response of Arctic soils to climate change. The forest‐tundra transition near Nadym in west Siberia provides an excellent study area in which to examine the contrasting thermal properties of soils in a forested ecosystem without permafrost and peatlands with permafrost. We investigated the effects of forest shading, snow cover and variable organic soil horizons in three common ecosystems of the forest‐tundra transition zone. Based on the year‐round temperature profile data, the most informative annual parameters were: (1) the sum of positive average daily temperatures at depths of 10 and 20 cm; (2) the maximum penetration depth of temperatures above 10 °C; and (3) the number of days with temperatures below 0 °C at a depth of 20 cm. The insulative effect of snow cover in winter was at least twice that of the shading and cooling effect of vegetation in summer. In areas with shallow permafrost, the presence of a thick organic horizon, with an extremely low thermal diffusivity, creates a very steep temperature gradient that limits heat penetration to the top of the permafrost in summer. Copyright © 2015 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.