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Permafrost, A Time Capsule from the Ice Age, Is Thawing

As climate change continues to raise temperatures worldwide, the arctic is warming even faster than the rest of the world.

Today, we take a look at the unique arctic terrain that is under threat from climate change: the permafrost. This frozen landscape is defined by deep layers of soil that never get above freezing.

Credit Woodwell Climate Research Center
Woodwell Climate Research Center
The areas globally where permafrost is found.

But now, that’s starting to change, and the permafrost is starting to thaw—with devastating affects for the communities living on top of it.

We hear about some of the amazing Ice Age creatures that have been preserved in this frozen ground for tens of thousands of years. The frozen soil of the permafrost has functioned for millennia as a deep freezer for these ancient creatures, giving us a window back into the Pleistocene era.

And we talk about how this thawing organic matter trapped in the permafrost itself is a concerning source of carbon emissions. This frozen organic material locked in the frozen soil is now decomposing and releasing carbon. If the planet continues to warm, this incredible icy land may not only become a victim of climate change--but a driver of it as well.


  • Dr. Sue Natali - Arctic program director and scientist at the Woodwell Climate Research Center(formerly known as the Woods Hole Research Center)
  • Dr. Jacquelyn Gill - Associate Professor of Paleoecology & Plant Ecology with the School of Biology and Ecology and the Climate Change Institute at University of Maine
  • Dr. Advait Jukar - Vertebrate Paleontologist at Yale University, where he is a Gaylord Donnelley Postdoctoral Fellow in Anthropology

Cat Pastor contributed to this show.


Lucy leads Connecticut Public's strategies to deeply connect and build collaborations with community-focused organizations across the state.
Carmen Baskauf was a producer for Connecticut Public Radio's news-talk show Where We Live, hosted by Lucy Nalpathanchil from 2017-2021. She has also contributed to The Colin McEnroe Show.

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