Scientists Say: Permafrost

This soil gets cold and stays cold

This is a tunnel into permafrost outside of Fairbanks, Alaska. The walls on either side have been frozen solid for up to 25,000 years.

B. Brookshire/SSP

 

Permafrost (noun, “PUR-mah-frost”)

This is any soil that has been frozen for at least two years straight. In polar regions, air temperatures are below freezing for many months of the year, which allows the soil below to freeze. During summer, upper soil layers may thaw, allowing plants to grow. But underneath, a deep layer of soil remains permanently frozen.

In a sentence

Permafrost stores elements such as carbon — but if that soil thaws, it could release this contributor to climate change.

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Bethany is the staff writer at Science News for Students. She has a Ph.D. in physiology and pharmacology from Wake Forest University School of Medicine.

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