Explained in 90 Seconds: Permafrost

This microbial feast is accelerating climate change.

Glaciers. They really are the pin-up geological formation for climate change. But spare a thought for permafrost. Perma-what? Answer: The gigantic carbon-rich Arctic landmass, that—until recently—has locked away its greenhouse gases in a deep freeze for millennia. That is, until man-made climate change has begun to unlock its CO2 stores, only then to be devoured by methane-spewing organisms. This microbial feast is accelerating climate change. The problem: It’s a feedback loop. The hotter it gets, the more the permafrost melts, the more CO2 is emitted. And around and around we go, in a devastating round-about for Arctic communities, and the entire globe. Continuing our “Explained in 90 Seconds” series, here’s a primer on Permafrost.

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The Climate Desk is a journalistic collaboration dedicated to exploring the impact—human, environmental, economic, political—of a changing climate. The partners are The Atlantic, Center for Investigative Reporting, Grist, The Guardian, Huffington Post, Mother Jones, Slate, and Wired.