Earth Expedition: Flying Over a Greening Arctic Tundra

  • Released Thursday, August 10, 2017

NASA researchers are flying over Alaska and Canada, studying the effects of a greening Arctic.

Permafrost, the continuously frozen layer of soil under the Arctic region is thawing as the climate warms up. In the tundra regions, shrubs and soil bacteria are in a race to take advantage of these changing conditions.

Shrubs grow where thawing permafrost produces water and carbon dioxide, while underground, the same thawing permafrost exposes organic material that’s been frozen for thousands of years, a feast for soil bacteria.

Although the new vegetation absorbs some carbon dioxide from the region, the invigorated bacteria produce both carbon dioxide and methane. From NASA’s DC-8 plane, researchers with the Arctic Boreal Vulnerability Experiment (ABoVE) are measuring how much carbon dioxide is being released by the Arctic’s greening tundra, acting as referees in the carbon race between plants and soil bacteria.


Please give credit for this item to:
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

Release date

This page was originally published on Thursday, August 10, 2017.
This page was last updated on Wednesday, May 3, 2023 at 1:47 PM EDT.


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