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Micaela N. Pedrazas et al., 2020

World - Coastal Permafrost More Susceptible to Climate Change Than Previously Thought

Research has found permafrost to be mostly absent throughout the shallow seafloor along a coastal field site in northeastern Alaska. That means carbon can be released from coastline sources much more easily than previously thought.

If you flew from the sea towards the land in the north slope of Alaska, you would cross from the water, over a narrow beach, and then to the tundra. From the air, that tundra would look like a landscape of room-sized polygonal shapes. Those shapes are the surface manifestations of the ice in the frozen ground below, a solidified earth known as permafrost.

Scientists long believed the solid permafrost extended offshore: from the tundra, below that narrow beach and below the seafloor declining at a gentle slope. They viewed that permafrost like solid brick, locking the subsurface -- and the vast amounts of carbon it holds -- in place.

But new research led by Micaela Pedrazas, who earned her masters at The University of Texas at Austin Jackson School of Geosciences working with Professor Bayani Cardenas, has upended that paradigm. They found permafrost to be mostly absent throughout the shallow seafloor along a coastal field site in northeastern Alaska. That means carbon can be released from coastline sources much more easily than previously thought.

The study was published in Science Advances on Oct. 23 with coauthors from the Jackson School and UT's Marine Science Institute.

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Read also Absence of ice-bonded permafrost beneath an Arctic lagoon revealed by electrical geophysics, Micaela N. Pedrazas et al., Oct. 23, 2020