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Speleothems Reveal 500,000-Year History of Siberian Permafrost

Science  21 Feb 2013:
pp.
DOI: 10.1126/science.1228729

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Abstract

Soils in permafrost regions contain twice as much carbon as the atmosphere, and permafrost has an important influence of the natural and built environment at high northern latitudes. The response of permafrost to warming climate is uncertain and occurs on time scales longer than has been assessed by direct observation. In this study, we date periods of speleothem growth in a north-south transect of caves in Siberia to reconstruct the history of permafrost in past climate states. Speleothem growth is restricted to full interglacial conditions in all studied caves. In the northernmost cave (at 60°N), no growth has occurred since Marine Isotopic Stage (MIS) 11. Growth at that time indicates that global climates only slightly warmer than today are sufficient to thaw significant regions of permafrost.

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