Nearly one-quarter of the land in the Northern Hemisphere is underlain by permafrost. As this frozen soil melts, it releases large amounts of carbon dioxide and methane, and also alters surface hydrology. In this focus, we present a collection of research and comment pieces that look at the current effects of melting permafrost and assess how this vast carbon store could influence climate in the future.


Communities around the Arctic are already seeing the effects of melting permafrost. Some of the biggest effects of this thaw will probably emerge in the coming centuries.

Editorial | | Nature Geoscience

Climate change is causing widespread permafrost thaw in the Arctic. Measurements at 33 Arctic lakes show that old carbon from thawing permafrost is being emitted as methane, though emission rates have not changed during the past 60 years.

News & Views | | Nature Geoscience

The sources contributing to the deglacial rise in atmospheric CO2 concentrations are unclear. Climate model simulations suggest thawing permafrost soils were the initial source, highlighting the vulnerability of modern permafrost carbon stores.

News & Views | | Nature Geoscience

From the archives

Methane emissions from natural gas reservoirs have long been largely overlooked. The discovery of abundant geological gas seeps in areas of cryosphere degradation highlights the relevance of these emissions to the greenhouse gas budget.

News & Views | | Nature Geoscience

Large quantities of methane lie trapped beneath the floor of the Arctic Ocean. Measurements in the southern Laptev Sea around the Lena River delta suggest that bubbles and storms facilitate the flux of some of this submarine methane to the atmosphere.

News & Views | | Nature Geoscience

The impact of thawing permafrost on the nitrogen cycle is uncertain. Laboratory experiments using permafrost cores from northeast Greenland reveal that rewetting of thawed permafrost increases nitrous oxide production over 20-fold.

Letter | | Nature Geoscience