This digital database is the product of collaboration between the U.S. Geological Survey, the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks; the Los Altos Hills Foothill College GeoSpatial Technology Certificate Program; the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, Potsdam, Germany; and the Institute of Physical Chemical and Biological Problems in Soil Science of the Russian Academy of Sciences. The primary goal for creating this digital database is to enhance current estimates of soil organic carbon stored in deep permafrost, in particular the late Pleistocene syngenetic ice-rich permafrost deposits of the Yedoma Suite. Previous studies estimated that Yedoma deposits cover about 1 million square kilometers of a large region in central and eastern Siberia, but these estimates generally are based on maps with scales smaller than 1:10,000,000. Taking into account this large area, it was estimated that Yedoma may store as much as 500 petagrams of soil organic carbon, a large part of which is vulnerable to thaw and mobilization from thermokarst and erosion.
To refine assessments of the spatial distribution of Yedoma deposits, we digitized 11 Russian Quaternary geologic maps. Our study focused on extracting geologic units interpreted by us as late Pleistocene ice-rich syngenetic Yedoma deposits based on lithology, ground ice conditions, stratigraphy, and geomorphological and spatial association. These Yedoma units then were merged into a single data layer across map tiles. The spatial database provides a useful update of the spatial distribution of this deposit for an approximately 2.32 million square kilometers land area in Siberia that will (1) serve as a core database for future refinements of Yedoma distribution in additional regions, and (2) provide a starting point to revise the size of deep but thaw-vulnerable permafrost carbon pools in the Arctic based on surface geology and the distribution of cryolithofacies types at high spatial resolution. However, we recognize that the extent of Yedoma deposits presented in this database is not complete for a global assessment, because Yedoma deposits also occur in the Taymyr lowlands and Chukotka, and in parts of Alaska and northwestern Canada.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Distribution of late Pleistocene ice-rich syngenetic permafrost of the Yedoma Suite in east and central Siberia, Russia