Constraining uncertainties in the permafrost-climate feedback (COUP)

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The research project 'Constraining uncertainties in the permafrost-climate feedback' (COUP) aims at increasing our knowledge of permafrost in the climate system. The project gathers researchers from eight European universities in a joint research initiative that will run until 2018.

Across vast Boreal and Arctic biomes, the severe climate means that the ground never thaws in summer but stays perennially frozen in permafrost. These frozen soils hold huge stocks of soil organic matter which have been protected from decomposition over long time-scales. As the global climate warms, thawing permafrost may lead to increased greenhouse gas release as these soils thaw and soil organic matter is decomposed. Scientists agree that this permafrost-climate feedback is important to the global climate system, but its magnitude and timing remains poorly understood. Read more on the website of Stockholm University.

The overall aim of COUP is to use landscape-scale process understanding to constrain uncertainties in Earth System Model (ESM) projections of the permafrost-climate feedback.

Key COUP deliverables are:

  • High-resolution quantification of potential permafrost-climate feedbacks at sites covering the range of Arctic-Boreal environmental conditions
  • Open-source publication of circumpolar datasets to support ESM development in the wider research community
  • Use landscape-scale system understanding to develop JULES (the land surface scheme of the UKESM1 ESM) to include permafrost-climate feedback processes
  • Constrain uncertainties in a new estimate of the permafrost-climate feedback based on a simplified carbon climate framework tuned to a range of ESMs
  • Provide an estimate of the permafrost-climate feedback in the updated UKESM1 ESM 

Click here to access the full   Coup Research plan (673 Kb), including description of sites, work and relevant scientific references.

Open access data and links to other projects and Networks
Datasets produced in COUP will be freely available online so that they can be used by other scientists and help improvement of all global climate models. Data gathered in COUP will contribute to an open access geospatial dataset of permafrost region soil carbon stocks hosted by the Bolin Centre for Climate Research at Stockholm University.

COUP is designed to maximise synergies with ongoing projects. Much of the needed data and system understanding was generated in other research programmes, including the international research consortia PAGE21, DEFROST and CryoCARB. The project is also integrated with existing scientific networks, including the Permafrost Carbon Network.

COUP management
Project coordination, management and outreach is handled under work-package (WP) 8, which is coordinated from Stockholm University. WP8 also includes a management board which includes one lead from all other seven scientific WPs. WP8 oversees day-to-day coordination of COUP, but all major scientific and financial decisions (such as changes to budgets) are discussed and decided in the management board. The board will schedule virtual meetings every six months.

Click here to access the  COUP Management plan (369 Kb), including a description of our intent to conduct Climate-friendly Climate Research.