Permafrost Hydrology of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau: A Review of Processes and Modeling

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

Abstract

Permafrost extends 40% of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau (QTP), a region which contains the headwaters of numerous major rivers in Asia. As an aquiclude, permafrost substantially controls surface runoff and its hydraulic connection with groundwater. The freeze–thaw cycle in the active layer significantly impacts soil water movement direction, velocity, storage capacity, and hydraulic conductivity. Under the accelerating warming on the QTP, permafrost degradation is drastically altering regional and even continental hydrological regimes, attracting the attention of hydrologists, climatologists, ecologists, engineers, and decision-makers. A systematic review of permafrost hydrological processes and modeling on the QTP is still lacking, however, leaving a number of knowledge gaps. In this review, we summarize the current understanding of permafrost hydrological processes and applications of some permafrost hydrological models of varying complexity at different scales on the QTP. We then discuss the current challenges and future opportunities, including observations and data, the understanding of processes, and model realism. The goal of this review is to provide a clear picture of where we are now and to describe future challenges and opportunities. We concluded that more efforts are needed to conduct long-term field measurements, employ more advanced observation technologies, and develop flexible and modular models to deepen our understanding of permafrost hydrological processes and to improve our ability to predict the future responses of permafrost hydrology to climate changes.

Details

Authors
  • Hongkai Gao
  • Jingjing Wang
  • Yuzhong Yang
  • Xicai Pan
  • Yongjian Ding
  • Zheng Duan
Organisations
External organisations
  • East China Normal University
  • Northwest Institute of Eco-Environment and Resources, Chinese Academy of Sciences
  • Institute of Soil Science, CAS
  • China-Pakistan Joint Research Center on Earth Science (CAS-HEC)
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Oceanography, Hydrology, Water Resources

Keywords

  • freeze–thaw process, frozen soil, permafrost, permafrost hydrological model, Qinghai-Tibet Plateau
Original languageEnglish
Article number576838
JournalFrontiers in Earth Science
Volume8
Publication statusPublished - 2021
Publication categoryResearch
Peer-reviewedYes