Arctic permafrost deposits are estimated to freeze-lock as much carbon in the atmosphere, allowing a potentially significant climate warming feedback loop when permafrost thaws and carbon is released as greenhouse gases. However, permafrsot carbon pool estimates have high uncertainties and the dynamics of rapid permafrost thaw in a warming Arctic are poorly understood. None of these pools or rapid processes are considered in current Earth System Models so far.

Data on the spatial distribution of soil carbon pools and their vulnerability to rapid thaw processes such as thermokarst is required to determine what, and how fast, climate feedbacks might result. PETA-CARB aims at quantifying the amount, distribution, and vulnerability of deep permafrost soil organic carbon pools, as well as how rapidly permafrost thaw impacts these carbon pools on various spatial and temporal scales, allowing projection of future interactions between the permafrost carbon pools and Earth’s climate.

The project combines remote sensing based change detection, mapping, and spatial data analysis for permafrost landscapes, quantitative field studies, and modelling of thermokarst processes to quantify the size and vulnerability of deep permafrost soil carbon pools to rapid thaw and resulting impacts.