Articles | Volume 10, issue 8
Research article
09 Aug 2013
Research article |  | 09 Aug 2013

Impact of western Siberia heat wave 2012 on greenhouse gases and trace metal concentration in thaw lakes of discontinuous permafrost zone

O. S. Pokrovsky, L. S. Shirokova, S. N. Kirpotin, S. P. Kulizhsky, and S. N. Vorobiev

Abstract. During the anomalously hot summer in 2012, surface air temperatures in Western Siberia were 5 to 15 °C higher than those observed during the previous period of > 30 yr. This unusual climate phenomenon provided an opportunity to examine the effects of short-term natural heating of water in thermokarst ponds and lakes in discontinuous permafrost zones and compare these observations to previous field results obtained when the temperature was normal during the summer of 2010 in the same region. In 2012, thermokarst bodies of water shrank significantly, water levels dropped approximately 50 cm in large lakes and small (< 10–100 m2) ponds, and shallow soil depressions disappeared. Based on samples from ~ 40 bodies of water collected previously and in 2012, first-order features of changes in chemical composition in response to increased water temperatures (from 14.1 ± 2.2 to 23.8 ± 2.3 °C in 2010 and 2012, respectively) were established. In these thermokarst bodies of water that covered a full range of surface areas, the average conductivity and pH were almost unchanged, whereas dissolved organic carbon (DOC), Cl- and SO42- concentrations were higher by a factor of ~ 2 during summer 2012 compared to periods with normal temperatures. Similarly, most divalent metals and insoluble trivalent and tetravalent elements were more concentrated by a factor of 1.7–2.4 in the summer of 2012 than normal periods. The average concentrations of dissolved CO2 and CH4 during the hot summer of 2012 increased by factors of 1.4 and 4.9, respectively. For most of the trace elements bound to colloids, the degree of colloidal binding decreased by a factor of 1.44 ± 0.33 (for an average of 40 elements) during the hot summer of 2012 compared to normal periods. Increases in CO2 and CH4 concentrations with the decreasing size of the body of water were well-pronounced during the hot summer of 2012. The concentrations of CO2 and CH4 rose by factors of 5 and 150, respectively, in small (≤ 102 m2) compared to large (≥ 104 m2) thermokarst (thaw) lakes. Taken together, these trends suggest that, for a conservative scenario of lake size distribution, lake water warming at high latitudes will produce (1) a significant increase in methane emission capacity from thaw lake surfaces; (2) decreased molecular sizes of trace element complexes and potential bioavailability of metal micronutrients in water columns; and (3) relatively conservative responses by CO2, DOC and trace element concentrations.

Final-revised paper