Climate Science

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Science  03 Feb 2012:
Vol. 335, Issue 6068, pp. 504-505
DOI: 10.1126/science.335.6068.504-d

Permafrost contains huge amounts of organic carbon. If it were to thaw in response to climate warming, it would constitute a very large potential source of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, and therefore could represent a potent positive feedback to warming. The spatial extent and dynamic state of permafrost are difficult to determine, however, making it difficult to assess the prospective danger to climate. Minsley et al. present results from an 1800-km-long aerial electromagnetic survey of the Yukon Flats region of northeastern Alaska, which shows the configuration of permafrost to depths of 100 m in sediments deposited over the past 4 million years. In addition to providing a baseline for future studies, their data reveal important details about potential connections between surface and groundwaters and the evolution of the permafrost over the past 1000 years.

Geophys. Res. Lett. 39, 10.1029/2011GL050079 (2012).

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