Tue. Sep 19th, 2023
Permafrost: Understanding the Frozen Ground Below

Permafrost is a layer of soil, rock, and sediment that remains frozen for at least two consecutive years. It is found in regions where the ground temperature remains below freezing point throughout the year. Permafrost is a critical component of the Earth’s cryosphere, and it plays a crucial role in regulating the planet’s climate.

Permafrost is found in many parts of the world, including the Arctic, Antarctica, and high-altitude mountain ranges. It covers approximately 24% of the land surface in the Northern Hemisphere. The thickness of permafrost varies from a few centimeters to several hundred meters, depending on the location and the underlying geology.

Permafrost is an essential component of the Earth’s system, and it interacts with other components such as the atmosphere, hydrosphere, and biosphere. The study of permafrost is crucial for understanding the Earth’s climate system and predicting future climate change.

To understand permafrost, it is essential to be familiar with some of the key terms used in permafrost earth observation. Here is a glossary of some of the most important terms:

Active Layer: The top layer of soil that thaws and freezes annually. It is the layer above the permafrost and is affected by seasonal changes in temperature.

Albedo: The reflectivity of a surface. Permafrost has a high albedo, which means it reflects more sunlight than other surfaces, such as vegetation or water.

Cryosphere: The part of the Earth’s system that is frozen, including permafrost, sea ice, glaciers, and snow.

Ground Ice: Ice that is found within the permafrost. Ground ice can be in the form of ice wedges, ice lenses, or massive ice bodies.

Periglacial: Refers to areas that are adjacent to glaciers or permafrost regions.

Permafrost Table: The boundary between the permafrost and the active layer.

Thermokarst: A land surface that is formed by the melting of ground ice. Thermokarst features include lakes, ponds, and depressions.

Thermokarst Lakes: Lakes that are formed by the melting of ground ice. They are common in permafrost regions and can have a significant impact on the local environment.

Thermokarst Terrain: A landscape that is formed by the melting of ground ice. Thermokarst terrain can be unstable and prone to landslides and erosion.

Understanding these terms is crucial for anyone studying permafrost. Permafrost earth observation involves using a range of techniques to study the properties and behavior of permafrost. These techniques include remote sensing, geophysical surveys, and field observations.

Remote sensing involves using satellites and other instruments to gather data about the Earth’s surface. This data can be used to study the distribution and thickness of permafrost, as well as changes in the permafrost over time.

Geophysical surveys involve using instruments to measure the physical properties of the ground, such as its electrical conductivity or thermal properties. These measurements can be used to study the structure and properties of permafrost.

Field observations involve visiting permafrost regions and collecting data on the ground. This can include drilling boreholes to measure the thickness of the permafrost, or taking soil samples to study the properties of the permafrost.

Permafrost earth observation is a complex and challenging field, but it is essential for understanding the Earth’s climate system. By studying permafrost, scientists can gain insights into how the planet’s climate has changed in the past and how it may change in the future. This knowledge is crucial for developing strategies to mitigate the impacts of climate change and protect the planet for future generations.