As global leaders meet to discuss climate change, a group of researchers in the Arctic are focusing on permafrost. Permafrost is exactly what it sounds like: ground that’s permanently frozen. But a tiny uptick in temperatures is fueling concern that thawing earth could lead to engineering disasters and worsen global warming.

CCTV America’s Sean Callebs reports from Alaska.


Harmful greenhouse gases are trapped in the permafrost. As the solid turf melts, there is no stopping the greenhouse gases from pouring into the atmosphere, feeding the cycle of warming temperatures. If left unchecked, the thick, permafrost in the Arctic could be nothing but a soggy memory by the end of the century.

Arctic sea ice is frozen seawater. At the end of the summer melt, sea ice is at its minimum extent, and after the winter freeze, it’s at its maximum.

Most sea ice forms in the winter, and some of it melts away in the summer. But this cycle has been changing: scientists have found that the extent of sea ice has declined dramatically over the past three decades. Less sea ice means more open ocean, which in turn means a warming Arctic. As the Arctic and Antarctic help moderate global climate, a change there can cause changes elsewhere in the world.

View larger version  here.

Jennifer Turner on thawing permafrost
For more on the melting of permafrost and how this impacts the planet, CCTV America’s Elaine Reyes spoke to Jennifer Turner. She’s director of the China Environment Forum at the Woodrow Wilson Center.