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

More methane from Siberia in summer

More methane from Siberia in summer

What happens in the vast permafrost regions of the Arctic when the atmosphere heats up? The question still drives climate researchers because the frozen ground contains large amounts of carbon, which can be converted by microbes into the greenhouse gases methane and CO2. If the gases are released, this could accelerate global warming even more. Now, AWI researcher Julia Boike, together with colleagues from the GFZ and University of Hamburg, has published results from an almost twenty-year series of observations in Siberia. To the original press release.

Permafrost contains more nitrogen than previously assumed

New Study

Permafrost contains more nitrogen than previously assumed

As a result of global warming, permafrost regions around the world are thawing now. As they do, climate-relevant greenhouse gases containing carbon (carbon dioxide, methane) and nitrogen (nitrous oxide) can be released from the soil and into the atmosphere. A team of experts led by the Alfred Wegener Institute has now determined the size of the nitrogen reservoir and calculated how much of it could be released as climate change progresses. The team’s findings have just been released in the journal Nature Communications.

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.