The melting of permafrost in the Arctic releases CO2, methane and many viruses (illustration).



Permafrost in northeast Alaska is melting faster than researchers think.

According to them, this layer of ice was present under the tundra but also beyond the coasts, under the seabed.

A study, published this Friday in 

Science Advances,

shows that it is not.

The finding worries.

Permafrost, which remains frozen for long periods, contains, among other things, CO2, methane and mercury.

It also contains viruses and bacteria that are sometimes unknown.

The melting of this part of the subsoil, also called permafrost, can therefore release into the air and water substances that are harmful to flora and fauna and which worsen global warming.

Permafrost not found near the coast and under the tundra

To uncover the absence of permafrost where they expected to find it, the authors of the study used electrical geophysical techniques.

They put current through the ground and studied the result.

After three years of work, the specialists were able to map the subsoil of the Katkovic lagoon, in Alaska.

They noted the absence of ice on the first 20 meters of depth at the level of the coast and the waters of the Beaufort Sea.

Under the tundra-covered dry land, the first five or so meters were also devoid of ice, contrary to expectations.

The researchers' discoveries "put forward a whole new model", comments geologist Micaela Pedrazas, head of the work, quoted by

Science Daily


“This research shows that the structure of the coast is much more complex than we thought,” confirms Jim McClelland, co-author of the study.


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  • Alaska

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  • Global warming

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  • CO2