Study: Alaska’s permafrost, which stores greenhouse gases, is less plentiful and more fragile than believed

The Washington Post discusses Alaska’s permafrost, which stores greenhouse gases, is less plentiful and more fragile than believed, study says.

Scientists long thought that the ground beneath the northern coasts of Alaska was permanently frozen. That was good news; permafrost stores large amounts of carbon, methane and other planet-warming gases, and coastal permafrost was thought to be a critical buffer against both global warming and coastal erosion.

That model could be very wrong. A new study documents an absence of permafrost along a coastal site in northeastern Alaska — and warns that coastal permafrost is more fragile than once thought. The study in the journal Science Advances documents efforts to map the subsurface of the Kaktovik Lagoon, a shallow bay at the edge of a large tundra underpinned by permafrost.

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