In DepthClimate Change

NASA armada targets thaw in Arctic soil

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Science  07 Jul 2017:
Vol. 357, Issue 6346, pp. 12-13
DOI: 10.1126/science.357.6346.12

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Summary

This summer, hundreds of field sites in Alaska and Canada's Yukon and Northwest Territories will be surveyed as part of a $100 million, 10-year, NASA-led campaign to study the permafrost. Thanks to global warming, permafrost—soil that remains in part frozen throughout the year—is thawing across much the north, shifting ecosystems and potentially unlocking a vast pool of ancient carbon for slow release to the atmosphere, amplifying the greenhouse effect. Local influences like topography and the water content in the soil, however, prevent long-term field sites from extrapolating their results to the landscape at large. It's hoped that the NASA project's nine aircraft, armed with advanced laser altimeters and radar, will help knit these local measures into a broad tapestry portraying the Arctic's future.