Articles | Volume 10, issue 1
Earth Syst. Sci. Data, 10, 355–390, 2018

Special issue: Changing Permafrost in the Arctic and its Global Effects in...

Earth Syst. Sci. Data, 10, 355–390, 2018

  05 Mar 2018

05 Mar 2018

A 20-year record (1998–2017) of permafrost, active layer and meteorological conditions at a high Arctic permafrost research site (Bayelva, Spitsbergen)

Julia Boike1,2, Inge Juszak1, Stephan Lange1, Sarah Chadburn3,4, Eleanor Burke5, Pier Paul Overduin1, Kurt Roth6, Olaf Ippisch7, Niko Bornemann1, Lielle Stern6, Isabelle Gouttevin8,9, Ernst Hauber10, and Sebastian Westermann11 Julia Boike et al.
  • 1Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Center for Polar and Marine Research, Telegrafenberg A43, 14473 Potsdam, Germany
  • 2Humboldt University, Geography Department, Unter den Linden 6, 10099 Berlin, Germany
  • 3University of Leeds, School of Earth and Environment, Leeds, LS2 9JT, UK
  • 4University of Exeter, College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical sciences, Exeter, EX4 4QF, UK
  • 5Met Office Hadley Centre, FitzRoy Road, Exeter, EX1 3PB, UK
  • 6University of Heidelberg, Institute of Environmental Physics, INF 229, 69120 Heidelberg, Germany
  • 7TU Clausthal, Institute for Mathematics, Erzstr. 1, 38678 Clausthal-Zellerfeld, Germany
  • 8Irstea, UR HHLY, Centre de Lyon-Villeurbanne, 5 rue de la Doua, BP 32108, 69616 Villeurbanne CEDEX, France
  • 9Université Grenoble Alpes, Irstea, UR ETGR, Centre de Grenoble, 2 rue de la Papeterie-BP 76, 38402 St-Martin-d'Hères, France
  • 10German Aerospace Center (DLR), Institute of Planetary Research, Rutherfordstr. 2, 12489 Berlin, Germany
  • 11University of Oslo, Department of Geosciences, P.O. Box 1047, Blindern, 0316 Oslo, Norway

Abstract. Most permafrost is located in the Arctic, where frozen organic carbon makes it an important component of the global climate system. Despite the fact that the Arctic climate changes more rapidly than the rest of the globe, observational data density in the region is low. Permafrost thaw and carbon release to the atmosphere are a positive feedback mechanism that can exacerbate global warming. This positive feedback functions via changing land–atmosphere energy and mass exchanges. There is thus a great need to understand links between the energy balance, which can vary rapidly over hourly to annual timescales, and permafrost, which changes slowly over long time periods. This understanding thus mandates long-term observational data sets.

Such a data set is available from the Bayelva site at Ny-Ålesund, Svalbard, where meteorology, energy balance components and subsurface observations have been made for the last 20 years. Additional data include a high-resolution digital elevation model (DEM) that can be used together with the snow physical information for snowpack modeling and a panchromatic image. This paper presents the data set produced so far, explains instrumentation, calibration, processing and data quality control, as well as the sources for various resulting data sets. The resulting data set is unique in the Arctic and serves as a baseline for future studies. The mean permafrost temperature is −2.8 °C, with a zero-amplitude depth at 5.5 m (2009–2017). Since the data provide observations of temporally variable parameters that mitigate energy fluxes between permafrost and atmosphere, such as snow depth and soil moisture content, they are suitable for use in integrating, calibrating and testing permafrost as a component in earth system models.

The presented data are available in the Supplement for this paper (time series) and through the PANGAEA and Zenodo data portals: time series (, and HRSC-AX data products (,

Short summary
A 20-year data record from the Bayelva site at Ny-Ålesund, Svalbard, is presented on meteorology, energy balance components, surface and subsurface observations. This paper presents the data set, instrumentation, calibration, processing and data quality control. The data show that mean annual, summer and winter soil temperature data from shallow to deeper depths have been warming over the period of record, indicating the degradation and loss of permafrost at this site.