From Berkeley Lab: “A New Way to Study Permafrost Soil, Above and Below Ground”

Berkeley Lab

Berkeley Lab research could lead to a better understanding of the Arctic ecosystem’s impact on the planet’s climate

January 03, 2013
Dan Krotz

What does pulling a radar-equipped sled across the Arctic tundra have to do with improving our understanding of climate change? It’s part of a new way to explore the little-known world of permafrost soils, which store almost as much carbon as the rest of the world’s soils and about twice as much as is in the atmosphere.

Berkeley Permafrost

The new approach combines several remote-sensing tools to study the Arctic landscape—above and below ground—in high resolution and over large spatial scales. It was developed by a group of researchers that includes scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab).

They use ground-penetrating radar, electrical resistance tomography, electromagnetic data, and LiDAR airborne measurements. Together, these tools allow the scientists to see the different layers of the terrestrial ecosystem, including the surface topography, the active layer that seasonally freezes and thaws, and the deeper permafrost layer.

The goal is to help scientists determine what will happen to permafrost-trapped carbon as the climate changes. Will it stay put? Or will it enter the atmosphere and accelerate climate change?

The scientists use data from airborne Lidar, surface geophysical measurements, and point measurements to explore the complex relationships between different layers of permafrost soil.

‘By combining surface geophysical and airborne remote-sensing methods, we have a new window that allows us to study permafrost systems like never before,’ says Susan Hubbard, a geophysicist in Berkeley Lab’s Earth Sciences Division who leads the Lab’s participation in the NGEE-Arctic collaboration.


Carbon sequestration and carbon dioxide are constants in our lives, making this a very important research. See the full article here.

A U.S. Department of Energy National Laboratory Operated by the University of California


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