Alaska permafrost thawing more rapidly than previously expected

Researchers from the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute have announced that Alaska’s North Slope permafrost is thawing much more quickly than previously expected.

Caribou on the Colville River, North Slope, Alaska.

Caribou on the Colville River, North Slope, Alaska. Image by Paxson Woelber / CC BY 2.0

Just a few years ago, scientists believed the permafrost would remain frozen for several decades, but at a recent meeting in San Francisco, a lead researcher said the top layers of North Slope permafrost have been warming faster than expected. Just how quickly the permafrost will thaw depends on how efforts to tackle climate change will unfold in the 21st century. Thawing permafrost can cause ground depressions, release more greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere and result in overall disruption of native ecosystems.

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