Multiple Ecosystem Effects of Extreme Weather Events in the Arctic

T. R. Christensen, M. Lund, K. Skov, J. Abermann, E. López-Blanco, J. Scheller, M. Scheel, M. Jackowicz-Korczynski, K. Langley, M. J. Murphy, M. Mastepanov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Arctic is getting warmer and wetter. Here, we document two independent examples of how associated extreme precipitation patterns have severe implications for high Arctic ecosystems. The events stand out in a 23-year record of continuous observations of a wide range of ecosystem parameters and act as an early indication of conditions projected to increase in the future. In NE Greenland, August 2015, one-quarter of the average annual precipitation fell during a 9-day intensive rain event. This ranked number one for daily sums during the 1996–2018 period and caused a strong and prolonged reduction in solar radiation decreasing CO2 uptake in the order of 18–23 g C m−2, a reduction comparable to typical annual C budgets in Arctic tundra. In a different type of event, but also due to changed weather patterns, an extreme snow melt season in 2018 triggered a dramatic gully thermokarst causing rapid transformation in ecosystem functioning from consistent annual ecosystem CO2 uptake and low methane exchange to highly elevated methane release, net source of CO2, and substantial export of organic carbon downstream as riverine and coastal input. In addition to climate warming alone, more frequent occurrence of extreme weather patterns will have large implications for otherwise undisturbed tundra ecosystems including their element transport and carbon interactions with the atmosphere and ocean.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)122-136
Issue number1
Early online date2020 May 18
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Environmental Sciences

Free keywords

  • Arctic ecosystems
  • climate change
  • ecosystem impacts
  • extreme events
  • long-term observations


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