Breck Bowden receives NSF arctic climate change award

Dr. William (Breck) Bowden - Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources

The National Science Foundation's Arctic System Science program recently awarded a grant to Dr. William (Breck) Bowden in the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources to conduct research on the Spatial and Temporal Influences of Thermokarst Failures on Surface Processes in Arctic Landscapes. Thermokarst literally refers to "uneven ground" that develops when the permanently frozen soil - permafrost - of the arctic region begins to warm and eventually thaws. Thermokarsts failures occur when thawed and destabilized soils slip downhill in massive mudslides. The arctic region has warmed more than any other place on earth and with this warming Dr. Bowden and his colleagues of observed an increasing frequency of thermokarst failures on the North Slope of arctic Alaska. The newly funded project involves 17 investigators from 10 institutions across the US and in Canada. Different components of the collaborative effort focus on how a widespread and long-term increase in the incidence of thermokarst failures could impact the structure and function of arctic landscapes. Specific components focus on the composition of vegetation, the distribution and processing of soil nutrients, and exports of sediments and nutrients to stream and lake ecosystems. The projects are designed to address how changing land surface processes and formation of thermokarst failures feedback to the climate system through energy, albedo, water, and trace gas exchange. Additional information about this program of research can be found at http://thermokarst.psu.edu.

Emerging Science