Sciences in Cold and Arid Regions ›› 2016, Vol. 8 ›› Issue (4): 269-296.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1226.2016.00269

• REVIEW •    

Evolution of permafrost in Northeast China since the Late Pleistocene

HuiJun Jin1, XiaoLi Chang1,2, DongLiang Luo1, RuiXia He1, LanZhi Lü1, SiZhong Yang1,3, DongXin Guo1, XueMei Chen1,4, Stuart A. Harris5   

  1. 1. State Key Laboratory of Frozen Soils Engineering, Cold and Arid Regions Environmental and Engineering Research Institute, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Lanzhou, Gansu 730000, China;
    2. National-Local Joint Engineering Laboratory of Geo-Spatial Information Technology, Hunan University of Science and Technology, Xiangtan, Hunan 411201, China;
    3. GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, Telegrafenberg, D-14473 Potsdam, Germany;
    4. College of Resources and Environment, Lanzhou University, Lanzhou, Gansu 730000, China;
    5. Department of Geography, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada T2 N1 N4
  • Received:2016-05-08 Revised:2016-06-22 Published:2018-11-23
  • Contact: HuiJun Jin, Professor of Cold and Arid Regions Environmental and Engineering Research Institute, Chinese Academy of Sciences. No. 320, West Donggang Road, Lanzhou, Gansu 730000, China. Tel:+86-931-4967428;
  • Supported by:
    The studies in the paper were supported by the Sub-project No. XDA05120302 (Permafrost Extent in China during the Last Glaciation Maximum and Meg-athermal), Strategic Pilot Science and Technology Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (Identi-fication of Carbon Budgets for Adaptation to Changing Climate and the Associated Issues) (Grant No. XDA05000000), and under the auspices of the Inter-national Permafrost Association (IPA) Action Group on "Last Permafrost Maximum and Minimum (LPMM) on the Eurasian Continent."

Abstract: In Northeast China, permafrost advanced and retreated several times under the influences of fluctuating paleo-climates and paleo-environments since the Late Pleistocene. During the last 60 years, many new data were obtained and studies were conducted on the evolution of permafrost in Northeast China, but so far no systematic summary and review have been made. Based on sedimentary sequences, remains of past permafrost, paleo-flora and -fauna records, and dating data, permafrost evolution since the Late Pleistocene has been analyzed and reconstructed in this paper. Paleo-temperatures reconstructed from the remains of past permafrost and those from paleo-flora and -fauna are compared, and thus the southern limit of permafrost (SLP) in each climate period is inferred by the relationship of the permafrost distribution and the mean annual air/ground temperatures (MAAT/MAGT). Thus, the evolutionary history of permafrost is here divided into five stages:(1) the Late Pleistocene (Last Glaciation, or LG) (65 to 10-8.5 ka), the Last Glaciation Maximum (LGM, 21-13 ka) in particular, the coldest period in the latest history with a cooling of about 6~10℃, characterized by extensive occurrences of glaciation, flourishing Mammathas-Coelodonta Faunal Complex (MCFC), widespread aeolian deposits, and significant sea level lowering, and permafrost greatly expanded southwards almost to the coastal plains (37°N-41°N); (2) the Holocene Megathermal Period (HMP, 8.5-7.0 to 4.0-3.0 ka), 3~5℃ warmer than today, permafrost retreated to about 52°N; (3) the Late Holocene Cold Period (Neoglaciation) (4.0-3.0 to 1.0-0.5 ka), a cooling of 1~3℃, some earlier thawed permafrost was refrozen or attached, and the SLP invaded southwards to 46°N; (4) the Little Ice Age (LIA, 500 to 100-150 a), the latest cold period with significant permafrost expansion; and (5) climate warming since the last century, during which Northeast China has undergone extensive permafrost degradation. The frequent and substantial expansions and retreats of permafrost have greatly impacted cold-region environments in Northeast China. North of the SLP during the HMP, or in the present continuous permafrost zone, the existing permafrost was largely formed during the LG and was later overlapped by the permafrost formed in the Neoglaciation. To the south, it was formed in the Neoglaciation. However, many aspects of permafrost evolution still await further investigations, such as data integration, numerical reconstruction, and merging of Chinese permafrost history with those of bordering regions as well as collaboration with related disciplines. Of these, studies on the evolution and degradation of permafrost during the past 150 years and its hydrological, ecological, and environmental impacts should be prioritized.

Key words: Last Glaciation (LG), Holocene Megathermal Period (HMP), Neoglaciation, Little Ice Age (LIA), Northeast China, permafrost evolution

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