1Research Institute for Global Change, JAMSTEC, Yokosuka, Japan
2International Arctic Research Center, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, AK 99775, USA
3Melnikov Permafrost Institute, SB RAS, Yakutsk, Russia
4All-Russian Research Institute of Hydrometeorological Information – World Data Centre, Obninsk, Russia
Abstract. This study not only examined the spatiotemporal variations of active-layer thickness (ALT) in permafrost regions during 1948–2006 over the terrestrial Arctic regions experiencing climate changes, but also identified the associated drivers based on observational data and a simulation conducted by a land surface model (CHANGE). The focus on the ALT extends previous studies that have emphasized ground temperatures in permafrost regions. The Ob, Yenisey, Lena, Yukon, and Mackenzie watersheds are foci of the study. Time series of ALT in Eurasian watersheds showed generally increasing trends, while the increase in ALT in North American watersheds was not significant. However, ALT in the North American watersheds has been negatively anomalous since 1990 when the Arctic air temperature entered into a warming phase. The warming temperatures were not simply expressed to increases in ALT. Since 1990 when the warming increased, the forcing of the ALT by the higher annual thawing index (ATI) in the Mackenzie and Yukon basins has been offset by the combined effects of less insulation caused by thinner snow depth and drier soil during summer. In contrast, the increasing ATI together with thicker snow depth and higher summer soil moisture in the Lena contributed to the increase in ALT. The results imply that the soil thermal and moisture regimes formed in the pre-thaw season(s) provide memory that manifests itself during the summer. The different ALT anomalies between Eurasian and North American watersheds highlight increased importance of the variability of hydrological variables.