A new data network called the Global Terrestrial Network for Permafrost, has been developed to track the world's permafrost meltdown. In the data portal, researchers first collect all the existing permafrost temperature and active thickness layer data from Arctic, Antarctic and mountain permafrost regions and then make it freely available for download.
This new portal can serve as an early warning system for researchers and decision-makers around the globe. Although the world's permafrost is one of the most important pieces in Earth's climate-system puzzle, to date it has been missing in most climate models.
The reason: data on temperature and the active layer thickness were neither comprehensive nor were they available in a standard format suitable for modeling. With the new Global Terrestrial Network for Permafrost (GTN-P), scientists from 25 countries have now filled this gap in the data.
Permafrost expert Hugues Lantuit from Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) said that if researchers want to understand the extent to which climate change is causing the permafrost to thaw and the effect this thawing will in turn have on the climate, they have to closely observe these regions around the globe, and we also have to make our measurements freely available.
This can only work if it is based on international cooperation, which we managed to achieve comprehensively for the first time in this project, he added. International climate research benefits from the database in two ways:
Firstly, researchers are making global permafrost information available in a standard format, allowing it to be easily used in climate models and at the same time, they have also analyzed the distribution of the measuring stations using statistical methods and can now say in which permafrost regions new stations for measuring permafrost temperature and active layer thickness are most urgently needed in order to make global climate models more reliable, stresses permafrost researcher Vladimir Romanovsky.
The study appears in an open access article on the Earth System Science Data