This website uses cookies, which are small text files that are used to make websites work more effectively. In order to continue using this website, you will need to accept the use of cookies.

22 November 2017


The EU project Nunataryuk will determine the effects of permafrost thaw on Earth’s coldest shorelines

Permafrost makes up a quarter of the landmass in the Northern Hemisphere. Climate change means that Arctic coasts are thawing and eroding at an ever greater pace, releasing additional greenhouse gases. A large EU project, coordinated by the Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI), is now exploring the consequences for the global climate and for the people living in the Arctic. But that’s not all: working together with residents of the Arctic region, the researchers will also co-design strategies for the future in order to cope with ongoing climate change.

The sheer size of permafrost regions makes them a global issue. A quarter of the landmass in the Northern Hemisphere consists of permafrost soils, which have been frozen solid for thousands of years. A third of the world’s coastlines are permafrost and span Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Norway and Siberia. Researchers have known for years that the permafrost is thawing ever more rapidly due to climate change. Yet we still don’t know exactly what consequences this will have for the global climate, or for the people living there. In the EU project Nunataryuk, experts from 27 research institutions will spend the next five years intensively answering this research question and determining the role of permafrost coastlines in the Earth’s climate system.

Nunataryuk is unique because the scientists collaborate closely with local communities to determine how they can best adapt to thawing permafrost. “What makes the project stand out is the fact that we’ll study both the global and the local impacts of this thawing, with co-designed projects in local communities,” says AWI geoscientist Hugues Lantuit, the project’s coordinator.

Permafrost soils contain ancient, frozen organic matter. If permafrost begins to thaw, bacteria break down the organic matter, releasing large amounts of carbon dioxide and methane. This leads to greater warming of the Earth’s climate. How much warming is unclear, because many of the processes associated with permafrost thaw are not understood. In climate models, thawing permafrost has only been partly included. “The models view the permafrost as a uniform field, thawing from the top down, but that’s too simple,” Lantuit explains. “For example, on coastlines, permafrost is increasingly crumbling due to the effects of waves. The Arctic coastline is now receding by more than half a metre every year. The models don’t take this into account.” In addition, the thawed soil, together with all of its carbon and nutrients, is now increasingly being transported to the Arctic Ocean by rivers and streams. This factor isn’t reflected, either.

There’s yet another major question mark: the Arctic is home to large permafrost beneath the ocean floor. And we essentially have no idea how rapidly these areas thaw in the wake of climate change. “In the project, we will for the first time feed a comprehensive map of this area into climate models,” says Lantuit. To gauge how much greenhouse gas is being released by coastal areas and the seafloor, aeroplane and helicopter flights will be used to measure the carbon dioxide and methane levels in the air. Lantuit adds: “Only then will the climate models be able to better estimate the thawing’s effects on the Earth’s climate. In addition, one of the project teams will be tasked with determining the future environmental costs that we can expect to see in the future – in other words, the costs of permafrost thaw to the global economy.”

People living on the coasts of permafrost regions are already at risk: if the ground becomes too soft and fails, they lose their homes. Water pipes can break. In some places, oil and gas lines have already started to leak, and soils are contaminated. Also, the increased load of organic material coming from eroding permafrost soils at the coast is changing the marine habitat – in the best case, this could increase the amount of nutrients available to marine organisms, especially fish. On the other hand, it might harm the ecosystem. In addition, contaminants and pathogens that have remained frozen in the soil for millennia could find their way into coastal waters.

“All of these aspects are of course very important to local populations, which is why we’ll work together with them over the next five years to devise new strategies and solutions,” Lantuit explains. To make that happen, the soils will be precisely surveyed and mapped, so as to identify areas that are thawing only slowly, or are solid and firm, providing locations where new houses can be safely built. “We’re especially happy that the indigenous populations, which have lived in these regions for thousands of years, are also actively involved,” says Lantuit.

As a symbol of this proactive type of cooperation between researchers and indigenous people, the EU project was dubbed “Nunataryuk”. In the language of the Inuvialuit, who live in the western Canadian Arctic, it literally means “from land to sea”; the nearest English equivalent is most likely “coast”.


Artboard 1 copy 2


Prof. Hugues Lantuit
Nunataryuk Project Coordinator
Alfred Wegener Institute
Telegrafenberg A45
D-14473 Potsdam (Building A45 S-307)
Telephone: +49(331)288-2216
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


10 May 2019


Permafrost under the Arctic seabed is more widespread than previously thought, and is mostly warming, a new study finds

The fate of permafrost – soil that is frozen for two or more years – is of huge importance for the global climate because of the large amounts of organic carbon stored in it, which can be released into the atmosphere as these soils start to thaw.

While the distribution of permafrost on land is well mapped, little is known of the distribution, depth and behavior of permafrost under the Arctic’s seabed – the submarine permafrost.

Scientists have now, for the first time ever, modelled the distribution of submarine permafrost underneath the entire Arctic seabed. Published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans in the latest issue (April 2019), their findings reveal that submarine permafrost is more widely distributed than previously thought, and is almost all getting thinner.

These findings are significant, because knowing how much submarine permafrost exists is a crucial first step in predicting how much methane and carbon dioxide might be released into the atmosphere from underneath the Arctic seabed.

“As sea ice melts and the temperature of the Arctic water column increases, some of this heat is being transferred to the seabed, accelerating the thaw of submarine permafrost. This raises the possibility of releasing methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. It’s crucial that we get a better understanding of where submarine permafrost is located and how vulnerable it is to this warming,” noted Dr. Paul Overduin from the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI), Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research, and lead author of the study.

Since the last Ice Age, the world’s oceans have risen by about 120 meters, covering a lot of land that was deeply frozen. Most marine permafrost is thought to be such relict terrestrial permafrost, which now finds itself under the Arctic Ocean. Scientists have so far predicted where marine permafrost exists by reconstructing global sea levels and modelling the underwater topography (bathymetry) of the oceans. Observational data from ships has also provided some data, but it is limited to just a few areas in the Arctic.

Paul Overduin and his colleagues tweaked this approach by adding a heat flow model. First they modelled how Arctic sea levels rose and fell over hundreds of thousands of years. Where low sea levels left the land exposed to a cold climate, the model shows that permafrost developed. High sea levels, such as those we have today, flooded the land and created submarine permafrost. To see how submarine permafrost evolved over time, they then used a simple mathematical model to track the heat flow into the ground from the ocean, to understand how quickly permafrost thaws once it is covered by seawater.

The team also compared the model to some of the few seismic surveys and drilled cores available, in the Kara and Beaufort Seas, and found a good match. According to their model, permafrost exists under 2.5 million square kilometers of the Arctic seabed (roughly half the size of the European Union), larger than previous estimates. They found that permafrost beneath the ocean is warming and the ice in it is thawing. Most surprising to the team was that 97% of submarine permafrost is thinning, implying that submarine permafrost will almost certainly disappear if the Arctic seas continue to warm. Over 80% of submarine permafrost is located in the Siberian Arctic Seas, which are relatively shallow with an average depth of 100 meters.

Their work is an important step answering some larger questions about how much the Arctic is contributing to global greenhouse gas emissions. “The big question on everyone’s mind is how this warming of marine permafrost and thinning will impact on methane emissions. Our work provides a baseline to start modelling emissions against various future warming scenarios,” concludes Sebastian Westermann of the University of Oslo, one of the co-authors of the study.

csm Eisgehalt 433bc4cc07

Ice content: A view of the Arctic Ocean show the land and water depth. The model calculates how much ice remains in the sediment below the ocean floor. (Map: Paul Overduin)

csm Maechtigkeit 3912413bf7


Cardinalty: Modelled temperatures below the ocean floor allow us to estimate how thick the permafrost is around the Arctic Ocean. The light blue line shows the previously assumed distribution of potential submarine permafrost. The coloured region shows how deep the permafrost is beneath the sea floor. (Map: Paul Overduin)


The study is part of the Nunataryuk research project, which aims to assess permafrost thaw, study how it contributes to climate change, understand its impacts on indigenous communities and other people, and develop mitigation and adaptation strategies. The project brings together world-leading specialists in natural science and socio-economics and connects them with stakeholders from around the Arctic coast. Nunataryuk is an EU-funded Horizon 2020 project coordinated by the Alfred Wegener Institute in Potsdam, Germany.

Original study:

Overduin, P. P., Schneider von Deimling, T., Miesner, F., Grigoriev, M. N., Ruppel, C., Vasiliev, A., et al (2019). Submarine Permafrost Map in the Arctic Modelled Using 1-D Transient Heat Flux (SuPerMAP). Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, 124. DOI: 10.1029/2018JC014675

Scientific contact:

Dr. Paul Overduin
Alfred Wegener Institute
Telephone: +49(331)288-2113
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Media relations contact:

Marlena Witte
Alfred Wegener Institute
Telephone: +49(471)4831-1539
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Effective date: April 12, 2019

Nunataryuk ("us", "we", or "our") operates the website (the "Service").

This page informs you of our policies regarding the collection, use, and disclosure of personal data when you use our Service and the choices you have associated with that data. Our Privacy Policy for Nunataryuk is created with the help of the Free Privacy Policy Generator.

We use your data to provide and improve the Service. By using the Service, you agree to the collection and use of information in accordance with this policy. Unless otherwise defined in this Privacy Policy, terms used in this Privacy Policy have the same meanings as in our Terms and Conditions, accessible from

Information Collection And Use

We collect several different types of information for various purposes to provide and improve our Service to you.

Types of Data Collected

Personal Data

While using our Service, we may ask you to provide us with certain personally identifiable information that can be used to contact or identify you ("Personal Data"). Personally identifiable information may include, but is not limited to:

  • Cookies and Usage Data

Usage Data

We may also collect information how the Service is accessed and used ("Usage Data"). This Usage Data may include information such as your computer's Internet Protocol address (e.g. IP address), browser type, browser version, the pages of our Service that you visit, the time and date of your visit, the time spent on those pages, unique device identifiers and other diagnostic data.

Tracking & Cookies Data

We use cookies and similar tracking technologies to track the activity on our Service and hold certain information.

Cookies are files with small amount of data which may include an anonymous unique identifier. Cookies are sent to your browser from a website and stored on your device. Tracking technologies also used are beacons, tags, and scripts to collect and track information and to improve and analyze our Service.

You can instruct your browser to refuse all cookies or to indicate when a cookie is being sent. However, if you do not accept cookies, you may not be able to use some portions of our Service.

Examples of Cookies we use:

  • Session Cookies. We use Session Cookies to operate our Service.
  • Preference Cookies. We use Preference Cookies to remember your preferences and various settings.
  • Security Cookies. We use Security Cookies for security purposes.

Use of Data

Nunataryuk uses the collected data for various purposes:

  • To provide and maintain the Service
  • To notify you about changes to our Service
  • To allow you to participate in interactive features of our Service when you choose to do so
  • To provide customer care and support
  • To provide analysis or valuable information so that we can improve the Service
  • To monitor the usage of the Service
  • To detect, prevent and address technical issues

Transfer Of Data

Your information, including Personal Data, may be transferred to — and maintained on — computers located outside of your state, province, country or other governmental jurisdiction where the data protection laws may differ than those from your jurisdiction.

If you are located outside Germany and choose to provide information to us, please note that we transfer the data, including Personal Data, to Germany and process it there.

Your consent to this Privacy Policy followed by your submission of such information represents your agreement to that transfer.

Nunataryuk will take all steps reasonably necessary to ensure that your data is treated securely and in accordance with this Privacy Policy and no transfer of your Personal Data will take place to an organization or a country unless there are adequate controls in place including the security of your data and other personal information.

Disclosure Of Data

Legal Requirements

Nunataryuk may disclose your Personal Data in the good faith belief that such action is necessary to:

  • To comply with a legal obligation
  • To protect and defend the rights or property of Nunataryuk
  • To prevent or investigate possible wrongdoing in connection with the Service
  • To protect the personal safety of users of the Service or the public
  • To protect against legal liability

Security Of Data

The security of your data is important to us, but remember that no method of transmission over the Internet, or method of electronic storage is 100% secure. While we strive to use commercially acceptable means to protect your Personal Data, we cannot guarantee its absolute security.

Service Providers

We may employ third party companies and individuals to facilitate our Service ("Service Providers"), to provide the Service on our behalf, to perform Service-related services or to assist us in analyzing how our Service is used.

These third parties have access to your Personal Data only to perform these tasks on our behalf and are obligated not to disclose or use it for any other purpose.


We may use third-party Service Providers to monitor and analyze the use of our Service.

  • Google Analytics

    Google Analytics is a web analytics service offered by Google that tracks and reports website traffic. Google uses the data collected to track and monitor the use of our Service. This data is shared with other Google services. Google may use the collected data to contextualize and personalize the ads of its own advertising network.

    You can opt-out of having made your activity on the Service available to Google Analytics by installing the Google Analytics opt-out browser add-on. The add-on prevents the Google Analytics JavaScript (ga.js, analytics.js, and dc.js) from sharing information with Google Analytics about visits activity.

    For more information on the privacy practices of Google, please visit the Google Privacy & Terms web page:

Links To Other Sites

Our Service may contain links to other sites that are not operated by us. If you click on a third party link, you will be directed to that third party's site. We strongly advise you to review the Privacy Policy of every site you visit.

We have no control over and assume no responsibility for the content, privacy policies or practices of any third party sites or services.

Children's Privacy

Our Service does not address anyone under the age of 18 ("Children").

We do not knowingly collect personally identifiable information from anyone under the age of 18. If you are a parent or guardian and you are aware that your Children has provided us with Personal Data, please contact us. If we become aware that we have collected Personal Data from children without verification of parental consent, we take steps to remove that information from our servers.

Changes To This Privacy Policy

We may update our Privacy Policy from time to time. We will notify you of any changes by posting the new Privacy Policy on this page.

We will let you know via email and/or a prominent notice on our Service, prior to the change becoming effective and update the "effective date" at the top of this Privacy Policy.

You are advised to review this Privacy Policy periodically for any changes. Changes to this Privacy Policy are effective when they are posted on this page.

Contact Us

If you have any questions about this Privacy Policy, please contact us:

  • By email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

7 November 2019


Erosion of permafrost coasts in the Arctic could vent major amounts of CO2

Permafrost coasts make up about one third of the Earth’s total coastline. As a result of accelerated climate change, whole sections of coastline rapidly thaw and erode into the Arctic Ocean. A study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters now shows that large amounts of carbon dioxide are potentially being produced along these eroding permafrost coastlines in the Arctic.

“Carbon budgets and climate simulations have so far missed coastal erosion in their equations even though it might be a substantial source of carbon dioxide,” says George Tanski of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, lead author of the study. “Our research found that the erosion of permafrost coastlines can lead to the rapid release of significant quantities of CO2, which can be expected to increase as coastal erosion accelerates, temperatures increase, sea ice diminishes, and stronger storms batter Arctic coasts.”

Simulating erosion effects in the lab

For the study, the researchers simulated the effects of erosion in a lab experiment. To find out how much carbon is released into the atmosphere along eroding Arctic permafrost coasts, they collected permafrost samples from Qikiqtaruk (also known as Herschel Island) off the northern coast of the Yukon in northwest Canada, and seawater from offshore. They mixed permafrost and seawater samples and then measured the greenhouse gases emitted over the course of four months, the average length of open-water season in the Arctic.

The researchers found that CO2 was released as rapidly from thawing permafrost in seawater as it is from thawing permafrost on land. Previous research had documented that thawing permafrost on land causes significant releases of greenhouse gases. This new research indicates that eroding permafrost coasts and nearshore waters are also a potentially notable source of CO2 emissions. It draws into question carbon budgets that have identified the coastal zone mainly as a point of passage for carbon from land to sea, neglecting possible carbon transport into the atmosphere.

The study was carried out during Tanski’s time at the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI), Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research, and the GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences. Co-authors come from AWI, GFZ, the University of Hamburg, and the University of Potsdam. The study is part of the Nunataryuk research project, which aims to assess permafrost thaw, study how it contributes to climate change, understand its impacts on indigenous communities and other people, and develop mitigation and adaptation strategies. The project brings together world-leading specialists in natural science and socio-economics and connects them with stakeholders from around the Arctic coast. Nunataryuk is an EU-funded Horizon 2020 project coordinated by the Alfred Wegener Institute in Potsdam, Germany.

Original study:

Tanski, G., Wagner, D., Knoblauch, C., Fritz, M., Sachs, T., Lantuit, H., 2019. Rapid CO2 Release From Eroding Permafrost in Seawater. Geophysical Research Letters. DOI: 10.1029/2019GL084303

Scientific contact:

Dr. George Tanski
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
Telephone: +31 644 804 694
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Media relations contact:

Dipl.-Phys. Philipp Hummel
Public and Media Relations
Helmholtz Centre Potsdam GFZ
German Research Centre for Geosciences
14473 Potsdam
Telephone: +49 331 288-1049
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


The Executive Committee is the supervisory body for the execution of the Project and shall report to and be accountable to the General Assembly. It will be represented by the Activity Coordinators, the head of the Stakeholder Forum, a representative from the SAB (R. Gordon), the WP Leaders (on request), and the Project Coordinator. A young researcher active in the project will be recruited in the Executive Committee at the end of the first six months of the project.

The Executive Committee will make decisions concerning every aspect of the project: technical, financial, scheduling, partnerships, dissemination, and exploitation and will be supported by the Project Office. It will normally meet in oerson at General Assemblies and online at least twice a year. Extraordinary meetings may also be called.

Hugues Lantuit


Alfred Wegener Institute Hugues Lantuit

Joan Nymand Larsen

Social Science Activities

Stefansson Arctic Institute Joan Nymand Larsen

Jorien Vonk

Physical Science Activities

VU University Amstedam Jorien E. Vonk

 Victor Brovkin

Integration Activities

 Max Planck Institute for meteorology Victor Brovkin

JD Storr

Member of ExCom 2019-

Aklavik Hunters ad Trappers Committee  

 Richard Gordon

Scientific Advisory Board &     Stakeholder Forum

Member of ExCom 2017-2019

    Chief, Herschel Island Territorial Park, Inuvialuit Settlement Region  

Alexandra Meyer

Early Career Researcher representative 2020-2021

Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Vienna csm MeyerA portrait 3fe9e9bd32

David Nielsen

Early Career Researcher representative 2019-2020

Faculty of Mathematics, Informatics and Natural Sciences
Climate Modelling
nielsen 180x240

Jannik Martens

Early Career Researcher representative 2018-2019

ACES - Stockholm University Jannik Martens

Leneisja Jungsberg

Early Career Researcher representative 2017-2018

NORDREGIO Lenesja Jungsberg

Designed & hosted by Arctic Portal