Animation: Permafrost – what is it?

Research on coastal erosion

Herschel Island: a remote location covered with the lichens, mosses and grasses of the tundra, bordered by steep and eroding cliffs, and characterised by temperatures that only crawl above freezing between June and September – but for AWI researcher Hugues Lantuit and the team from his Young Investigators Group COPER (which stands for Coastal Permafrost Prosion, Organic Carbon and Nutrient Release in the Arctic Nearshore Zone), it’s the ideal field laboratory. Lantuit and his team want to determine how fast the permafrost is thawing on the island, a process causing entire stretches of coast to crumble and fill the surrounding Beaufort Sea with the carbon and nutrients that had become trapped in the soil over the millennia. Since 2006, Lantuit has travelled summer after summer to the island, which is located at the northernmost tip of Canada’s Yukon Territory, and has been accompanied by his COPER Team since 2012.

Permafrost at a glance

Fast forward permafrost

Two time lapse movies from geoscientist Dr Julia Boike. The first one impressively shows how permafrost in the Arctic thaws. In the summer of 2012 scientists from the Alfred Wegener Institute had placed an automatic camera on the Eastern shore of the river Lena on the Samoylov island. Every four hours the camera took a picture over the course of 10 days and captured how the frozen ground retreats. The second movie shows how scientists build a soil station in the Arctic permafrost. For this they installed sensors, which will tell them what happens underneath the surface.

News

Thawing Permafrost is Shaping the Global Climate

Permafrost

Thawing Permafrost is Shaping the Global Climate

How is climate change affecting the permanently frozen soils of the Arctic? What will the consequences be for the global climate, human beings, and ecosystems? And what can be done to stop it? In the journal Frontiers in Environmental Science, a team of experts led by Benjamin Abbott from Brigham Young University, USA and Jens Strauss from the Alfred Wegener Institute in Potsdam summarise the current state of knowledge on these questions. In addition, an AWI group led by Moritz Langer has now created an interactive map of the past and future of permafrost.

Arctic coasts in transition

Permafrost

Arctic coasts in transition

Arctic coasts are characterized by sea ice, permafrost and ground ice. This makes them particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, which is already accelerating rapid coastal erosion. In a special issue of the journal Nature Reviews Earth & Environment, researchers from the Alfred Wegener Institute describe the sensitivity of Arctic coasts to climate change and the challenges for humans and nature. 

The AWI at the COP26 summit

The AWI at the COP26 summit

At the 26th UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow (COP26), the Alfred Wegener Institute will be present with various contributions: At the Focus Day Permafrost on November 4, AWI permafrost experts Hugues Lantuit, Paul Overduin and Jens Strauss will give presentations on seabed permafrost, permafrost emissions as well as infrastructure damage and coastal erosion caused by thawing permafrost starting at 11:00 am (CET). They will also be involved in the panel that will follow afterwards.

Find out more