Press Release
20 December 2005

NCAR and NSIDC Scientists Show Extreme Thaw of Near-Surface Permafrost by 2100

Recent analysis of model results by NCAR and NSIDC scientists suggests that global warming may decimate the top 10 feet (3 meters) or more of perennially frozen ground across the Northern Hemisphere, potentially altering ecosystems as well as damaging buildings and roads across Canada, Alaska, and Russia.

Climate model simulations from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) show that more than half of this topmost layer of permafrost could thaw by 2050 and as much as 90 percent by 2100. The model predicts the thawing to increase runoff to the Arctic Ocean, but of equal or more importance, such thawing could release vast amounts of carbon into the atmosphere.

The study, using the NCAR-based Community Climate System Model (CCSM), is authored by David Lawrence, of NCAR, and coauthored by Andrew Slater, of NSIDC.

The study is the first to examine the state of permafrost in a global model that includes interactions among the atmosphere, ocean, land, and sea-ice as well as a soil model that depicts freezing and thawing. Results appear online in the December 17 issue of Geophysical Research Letters.

To read the full NCAR press release, visit the NCAR News Center.