ScienceCasts: The “Sleeping Giant” in Arctic Permafrost

[ music ] The ‘Sleeping Giant’ in Arctic Permafrost presented by [email protected] Flying low and slow above the pristine terrain of Alaska’s North Slope research scientist Charles Miller of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory surveys the white expanse of tundra and permafrost below. On the horizon, a long, dark line appears. His plane draws nearer, and the mysterious object reveals itself to be a massive herd of migrating caribou, stretching for miles. It’s a sight Miller won’t soon forget. ‘Seeing those caribou marching single-file across the tundra puts what we’re doing here in the Arctic into perspective,’ says Miller, who is on a five-year mission named ‘CARVE’ to study how climate change is affecting the Arctic’s carbon cycle. CARVE is short for the ‘Carbon in Arctic Reservoirs Vulnerability Experiment.’ Now in its third year, the airborne campaign is testing the hypothesis that Arctic carbon reservoirs are vulnerable to warming, while delivering the first source-maps of greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide, and methane. About two dozen scientists from 12 institutions are participating. ‘The Arctic is critical to understanding global climate,’ says Miller. ‘Climate change is already happening in the Arctic, faster than its ecosystems can adapt. Looking at the Arctic is like looking at the canary in the coal mine for the entire Earth system.’ Over hundreds of millennia, Arctic permafrost soils have accumulated vast stores of organic carbon – an estimated 1,400 to 1,850 billion metric tons of it. That’s about half of all the estimated organic carbon stored in Earth’s soils. In comparison, about 350 billion metric tons of carbon have been emitted from all fossil-fuel combustion and human activities since 1850. Most of the Arctic’s sequestered carbon is located in thaw-vulnerable topsoils within 3 meters of the surface. But, as scientists are learning, permafrost – and its stored carbon – may not be as permanent as its name implies. And that has them concerned. ‘Permafrost soils are warming even faster than Arctic air temperatures – as much as 1.5 to 2.5 degrees Celsius in just the past 30 years,’ says Miller. ‘As heat from Earth’s surface penetrates into permafrost, it stimulates soil processes that mobilize these organic carbon reservoirs and release them into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide and methane, upsetting the Arctic’s carbon balance and greatly exacerbating global warming.’ CARVE campaign flights are conducted aboard a specially instrumented NASA C-23 Sherpa aircraft from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island in Virginia. The C-23 won’t win any beauty contests – its pilots refer to it as ‘a UPS truck with a bad nose job.’ Inside, it’s extremely noisy – the pilots and crew wear noise-cancelling headphones to communicate. ‘When you take the headphones off, it’s like being at a NASCAR race,’ Miller quipped. But what the C-23 lacks in beauty and quiet, it makes up for in reliability and its ability to fly ‘down in the mud.’ Most of the time, it flies about 150 meters above ground level, with periodic ascents to higher altitudes to collect background data. Onboard the plane, sophisticated instruments sniff the atmosphere for greenhouse gases. ‘[We] need to fly very close to the surface in the Arctic to capture the interesting exchanges of carbon taking place between Earth’s surface and atmosphere,’ Miller says. The CARVE team flew test flights in 2011 and science flights in 2012. So far in 2013 they have completed three monthly campaigns– in April, May and June– with four more to go. From a base in Fairbanks, Alaska, the C-23 flies up to eight hours a day to sites on Alaska’s North Slope, interior and Yukon River Valley over tundra, permafrost, boreal forests, peatlands and wetlands. Soaring over the Arctic terrain, Miller has seen many things he won’t forget. Like the Caribou, the data may prove unforgettable, too. For more news from the ends of the Earth-and beyond- visit

Comments 100

  • Before the Atlantis cataclysm the earth's axis wasn't tilted and the climate was temperate in all regions. The excess Greenland, Antarctic ice cover didn't exist back then. We received the icecap of an exploded planet which collided with earth, and swooshed through the atmosphere and covered the poles. A small moon also exploded over earth, and this explains the Pt. Barrow Aka. oblong cratering. If the truth is told, what will they do for money tomorrow?

  • Denied. Reason: Science!

  • The oceans need more salt.

  • SOmethings Must Entirely Occur Naturally Ensue, In Some Certain Appearences USually IN Great THreat In Someways.

  • Although perhaps juvenile in your mind, there is a book written by scientists called: " Cataclysm: Compelling evidence of a Cosmic Catastrophe in 9500 B.C. ". D.S. Allen, J.B. DeLair. Acknowledged. Reason: Science. The solar system did loose a planet called Tiamat, which is the current asteroid belt.

  • Conclusion: Inconclusive, give us more money.

  • Of course it is… it's the purpose… 😉

  • Without acknowledging GEO-ENGINEERING & WEATHER MANIPULATION, there cannot be a VALID DISCUSSION on CLIMATE CHANGE ! It looks to me like their
    melting the ARTIC ON PURPOSE — to get to the RESOURCES !
    I bet by July they will be on their way!!!

  • Alright, BeIng a LIabiliTY to you(science philanthropist)would u mind telling me what happened to the moon sea peddler or NASA COULD CLARIFY MY STATEMENT perhaps not u.

  • christ, nasa…please save us!

  • The heatwave started MAY 23RD 2013 — it went from 45 to 65 in a day here in southeast,the day the 1st cruise ship arrived! I,m a landscaper here, of 20-years and I.m telling you they are modifying the weather here!! This weather is FAKE! So wake-up to the TRUE REALITY!!!

  • NASA I need u to clarify my BIGGEST problem and that is to tell people the problems we'll b having in the near future.

  • What people don't understand (as evidenced by some of these comments) is that this research is important in that it looks at one possible addition to the overall problem. The warming of the earth is already set and can not be stopped in our lifetime. Weather is not climate, the energy stored in the ocean and the average temperature of the ice caps and these permafrost regions took decades to change. This research is only to explore how bad it will get and how fast.

  • /watch?feature=player_embedded&v=8R49da3im9k

  • Everywhere in the the ocean floor there is accumulated methane in large quantities. Just waiting for release soon the water temperature rises.

  • God dangit narrator it's "arctic," not "artic."

  • God damnit can I just enjoy my attempts to keep up with what's happening at NASA in peace, without the entire fucking comments section filled with nothing but idiotic conspiracy theorists?

  • The AGW hypothesis is that humans affect the earths climate…
    As a scientist I say prove it! Show me one bit of proof.
    Not a statistical analysis. Not a model.
    "The question is: if climate models differ by a factor of 2 to 3 in their climate sensitivity, how can they all simulate the global temperature record with a reasonable degree of accuracy? Kerr [2007] and S. E. Schwartz et al. (Quantifying climate change–too rosy a picture?, available at, 2007)"

  • Right now the data says the Temperature has been flat for ~16 years as CO2 rises…

    Models say nothing about that.

  • I can't listen to this past the halfway point. The narrator keeps saying "ardik" over and over.

  • I only made it to 1:39. I thought it was just my OCD. I expect more from NASA.

  • The next time you do a piece on the Arctic, kindly get a narrator who can proounce it.

  • Arctic my ass thats a straight answer n we already knew about that before u posted it was PREDICTABLE,We need real answers NASA n hw about just a little truth about ASTEROIDS,ALIENS shits and stuff.ofcourse u can't speak up n jst so u know i already want to KNOW the truth.SPEAK UP!!!

  • Odd how a science-oriented program attracts such a wide range of sience-illiterate, conspiracy-believers. Comments ranging from the foolish ("The AGW hypothesis is that humans affect the earths climate…As a scientist I say prove it! Show me one bit of proof") to to the ridiculous ("It looks to me like their [sic] melting the ARTIC ON PURPOSE"). And, of course, the people who take away only: aww, she doesn't pronounce the words right.

  • Has anyone considered the suns radiation for climate change after all it is at his full 10 year cycle and it's getting bigger the human community may not be the one at fault of this just saying.

  • Yeah, it's been considered a lot, but nothing happening on the sun would cause anywhere near the kind of climate trends we've been seeing.

  • >implying I haven't researched the subject at all

    You really are a pathetic breed…

  • And let me guess, you are convinced that everything to do with the government is automatically a terrible conspiracy? I wonder which TV/radio host you're getting this from.

  • Thank you for teaching me about tha " Sleeping Giant ".
    And da Terrain Plain.

  • "You can freak out all you want"? I sense a little smidgen of projection,

  • That entire comment, as most comments you've made on here, was pretty much meaningless. Just you saying "nope" in a superfluous way. I would've settled for the one-word "nope."

  • Look up the definition of the word "superfluous." And could you please refrain from the personal attacks?

  • One hardly needs to be a psychologist to notice that your statement "You can freak out all you want" is put right in the comment in which you seem to be freaking out.

  • Thank you. That data has been around for a long time. As were understatements of the climate changes we were facing as read 20 years ago. Though I never really thought it would be this bad. To see changes within my lifetime is stunning. I'm not optimistic, & if that makes me a Consp Theorist as butt-head suggests, then so be it. Fool me once. They are holding back, AGAIN. Pisses me off. But I understand why they do it. We really can't handle the truth. Runaway is right round the bend.

  • "Victim to toment"? Wow, you really do love to play victim, don't you. It meshes very well with the conspiracy theories, I bet — you know, the ones where you're always the powerless victim against some omnipotent tyrant, and everyone who doesn't buy into your bullshit is either mindless or working for said tyrant? "No, you moron," if you "knew your data" you wouldn't be denying the blatantly obvious existence of climate change.

  • Er, we already know the reason for the global temperature anomaly, you silly goose. And the Republican Party's idiotic "cap and trade" scam isn't going to help any: a carbon tax will, and it is vital to start that as soon as possible.

  • The things people will convince themselves of so they can sleep easier at night. Anyone who says there is no evidence for climate change clearly has not done one scrap of research. We all have a responsibility to do something whether you like it or not, because the effects of climate change are happening NOW, not in a million years. Scientists have NO REASON to make up climate change, consider instead the lies told by the $billion mining/energy corporations backing the govn. and media.

  • Does Everyone/Anyone Dare to Look Entirely At Documentary Entitled 'Revenge to humanity'just joking stupid NASA.

  • Do you even know what a hypocrite you are? You're making this comment using devices designed with science, put into orbit by NASA, financed & developed by the gov. Well, it looks like you've hitched a ride on the Luddite-loser bandwagon headed for Fantasyconspiracyland. You're not allowed to take any of the the products of science with you, though. Have fun in the 5th century!

  • Y cuando haran algo para conservar la delgada linea de vida (suelo o capa vegetal) que solo mide en promedio 50 cm a un metro y es donde se desarrola toda la vida del planeta, puedes verla en los cortes de carretera, al construir todo eso se destruye, capa vegetal o suelo que tardo miles o millones de años en formarse y donde se desarrollan las plantas que nos dan los alimentos y el oxigeno

  • This is disgusting. Obama is using NASA as his ministry of propaganda.

    How many times the polar ice retreated? Answer: hundreds of times.

    When did the polar ice begin to melt? Almost 15,000 years ago!

  • It's arctic NOT artic. This female narrator is killing me. (Go nerdfighters!)

  • Yet we continue to burn fossil fuels because of greed…. smh. Glad i will most likely be dead before it gets too bad.

  • Mr. Summers, I am a lifelong resident of Alaska, and I can honestly say, we do not typically pronounce the "C" in arctic. To do so would seem quite pretentious to anyone who actually lives In, or near the arctic.

  • No cabe duda ninguna, es un Gran Durmiente. Que el día que despierte ya nos podremos ir preparando. ¿Pero qué digo? Ya nos podemos ir preparando, pues está Despertando. Es el fin de nuestro mundo tal y cómo lo conocemos.

  • Sure, the ice has moved back and forth a few times in history, but never at this rate. In the past, the ecosystem had enough time to adapt. Now, as mentioned in the video, it's going so fast that the local ecosystem can not keep up. Dismissing the damage being done to the planet with things like "it's happened before" is like saying "Last time my house burned down, I wasn't home, so now that it's on fire again lets not call the fire department this time."

  • "A few times in history"? Pal, the arctic was once TROPICAL. And that happened about 35,000,000 years ago. ("Historians" were not yet invented.)

    Fact is, expansion and retreat of polar ice occurs over many millennia. What makes you think there is anything special about THIS retreat (which started about 15,000 years ago)?

  • Do you have any sources you can cite for your arguments? Just getting angry and calling it a lie does not support your position in a way that will make anyone other than other angry loud people take any appreciable notice.

  • Why should anybody believe you, you are an idiot?

  • Global warming is funny because people at first just would out right deny it. Now all it's opponents will say, oh ok it's warming but people didn't cause it. This is the progression of the so called "controversy" of global warming.

  • If you don't think CO2 warms the Earth you really have unaligned yourself with actual science and are now disenfranchised from the forefront of scientific discovery. Have a nice day.

  • the PIG has been let loose.

  • Psychoanalyst? This long winded comment deserves 7 words.

  • Will the melting methane have a cascade effect on global climate change? How long do we have before it gets out of control?

  • The troll paulvsheridan rants "Note that this name call bumbles into adject cattle-hood, blah blah blah… You may not that paulvsheridan quotes everyone else's words in an attempt to put down their opinions. But it has come to a point that paulvsheridan is a mumbling idiot who has nothing better to do than troll other people.

  • Emmm satellites are rarely used for internet, they produce too much latency. Internet is mosaic of mostly corporate networks connected to eachother, thats one of the reason why it can't be really controlled by anyone. US Government might initially financed it in early days, but now it mostly maintained by communication companies… and definitely government didn't develop it :p

  • That last line is the only thing that's technically correct, but only because people who aren't worth a darn don't own oil and coal companies.

  • Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you: The Fox News Viewer.

    Unfettered by facts, data, and years of research, the FNV brushes aside the contrast between beliefs and sarcasm to rail against their hated opponent: the Men of Straw. Most insidious, because the FNV ultimately knows, they are the cause of these horrid automatons; seeking to thwart their own views wherever they go. Worse, each Man of Straw contains an innocent victim, helplessly bound at its core, a forced megaphone for its views.

  • And why are there are billions of tons of carbon accumulation? Because the arctic has not always been locked in ice, but was for eons highly vegetated and teeming with wildlife. What does that tell you about "manmade" global warming?
    And why isn't the expanding Antarctic icesheet cited as the "canary in the coal mine" for a future ice age?
    The spiritual "this is for the caribou" opener is disengenuous, since they thrive many thousands of miles south of the arctic circle.

  • It's the automobile, which emits 100 times the carbon of any living thing on Earth. It's not sleeping however, it's just that no-one wants to give up their car or discuss the matter realistically. Your car emits more than just carbon dioxide.

    Big oil has a lot of money … you love your cars… nothing will change.

    In the past 100 years, we have tripled the carbon atoms stored in the ice core. Already melted.

    Ethanol produces 8 different carbon atoms. Carbon dioxide is only one.

  • Grey says "Ethanol produces 8 different carbon atoms. Carbon dioxide is only one."
    So can you name 7 other carbon atoms Ethanol "Produces?"
    Hint: ethanol contains only 2 carbon atoms. HO(CH)CH3

  • The Earth goes through this process every time it recedes from ice ages. We are currently experiencing the final period of the current ice age that peaked 18,000 yrs. ago. Enjoy the experience! So much carbon sequestered in the arctic means there was exceptionally warmer periods in the past. So it will be in the future, and as a consequence there will be more carbon sequestration (in the arctic) in the future.

  • carbon bs the problem is because of methane being released at massive colums around the globe & it heats up 20 times faster than any co2 we can cause by our activities so here is real data

  • Kawitamamayl, with all due respect, you've been drinking too much ethanol if you think carbon dioxide is an atom or that ethanol is only involved in the production of "atoms".

  • LOL One doesn't need to drink Ethanol in order to be a derp, as you have so aptly shown. Perhaps you should repeat High school chemistry!
    Oh wait you never studied any chemistry.That is why your post reveals such ignorance! Do you even have a GRE?

  • Human caused climate change is a bullshit story started by religion.
    Not the local priest but the guys in control.

  • Those caribou will be releasing far to much methane so they will have to be massacred and buried deep to lock up that carbon. Before the earth explodes.

  • "Human caused climate change is a scam…."


  • Climate change is a natural phenomenon which will happen with or without man kinds doing… we just might be speeding it up slightly !!

  • It's not the Art-ic, it's the Arc-tic.

  • No one is perfect. Even if you perfect all your test your still not perfect because you missing something. Want to know? You must know it

    50% – smartness
    50% – ???

  • I would love to see snow machines used to seal up some of these spots. At least we could try! We use them to powder ski slopes for profit; why not try to seal up melting places with them?

  • Not really. An idiot, by definition, can't help themselves. The anti-science wackos are capable of composing sentences, they have access to all the information on the internet. In particular they have all the science available to them, they also have access to all the journals where they are free to present evidence that climate science is invalid.

    They *choose* to shut their mind, to reject reason and evidence, and piss on every future generation *intentionally*.

    Not idiots. Willfully evil.

  • Um, that’s what quotation marks are for: to indicate that words referred to are from a different author. By definition one is not plagiarizing if using quotes. Back to Fourth Grade gam mar class for you, sir.

  • It would have been more comprehensible if the presenter did not keep mispronouncing "Arctic".  It should be pronounced "Ark-tik" not "Art-ik". Very distracting. Come on NASA, you can do better.

  • Wah wah wah she says artik instead of arctic come on we know what she means Quit whining over something stupid.

  • Wow 1 1/2- 2 1/2 in the last 30 yeArs . Cry me a river. The earth is finally waking up. Can't wait to see the world a tropical planet again.

  • So what did the polar ice caps coming back by 90% do to this BS theory?

  • bring on Al Gore

  • SORRY folks.  According to Webster,both"ark tik" &"art ik" are correct !

  • This is the one thing that scientists stole from the Mormons.  The Mormon Prophet Joseph Smith said that before Christ comes, the only way to tell the seasons will be the changing of the leaves on the trees.  Science has run with this one.  Was Smith wrong?

  • A theory can never be proven correct…. Therefore every theory can be disproven or challenged in one way or another.

  • "Carve', (the divvying of Earth for profit), said (Billy) as he sat among oth(3)ers at the Taking. The feast of the Taking.. "I wish to tell a story"..
    A story of a comment not published and of source of particular papers and thoughts in the Universe.. And of Trails of paths parting in a forest and loud noises of planes flying.. And of a frustrated hang glider enthusiast.
    There was a grown among many and as heir to the knowledge his imagination waned..  His mind turned to go back to bed and let the fire, knowledge and atmosphere change..- So to speak.. Who should it be around the table of the killing of the Carving fe3ist.. NO, it was not to be as the birds they spoke and erupted in flight.. Billy turned to the drive to attempt to get heard about communications in the universe and the basis of inspiration.. 'LONG ago and Far aanon.. HIs friends in high places..'' HIs hands would make kind of a appeal to the powers-that-be" so to speak.

  • This video is spoilt by the speakers continual pronounciation of 'ARCTIC' as 'ARTIC'.
    Has NASA ever looked at the spelling or checked how to pronounce the word?
    Artic is short for an 'articulated lorry', in case anyone wants to know……'

  • LOL Artic sounds pretty dumb. Although both are acceptable now, it still sounds like the presenter is not pronouncing it correctly – like a little kid.

  • Por fabor alguien en el internet me allude a comunicarme con la persona o comunidad indicada para resolver este problema de monóxido de carbón que tanto nos daña.yo e incontrado la solución al problema el
    Cual se incuentra en el mismo aparato que la produce en parte pero el mismo la puede resolver para los demás se los. Agradecería.

  • In June 2013 Miller published that he had observed many Arctic methane plumes that were 150 km in diameter.
    Since that announcement, no further information about these gigantic plumes  has been disseminated.

  • I just come from marrs and likely its with me all the time

  • One of the cheapest way to fight carbon overcast is to plant more and more plants, all over the world (!?)

  • Every time she pronounces Arctic as "Ardic", my eye twitches.

  • Wish this narrator would pronounce Arctic with the "c" ….it is not ar-tic. Drives me nuts!

  • A question on the Arctic not yet asked –

    In this NASA video, it claims that the Arctic holds 1400-1800 billion metric tons of carbon. It further claims that this is about half of ALL carbon stored in Earth's soils.

    The obvious question is: "Why does the Arctic, of all places, have so much of the carbon?"

    I've heard nothing that addresses this.

    It is for this reason that I speculate that Earth has a trick up her sleeve to deal with excess CO2 in the atmosphere. I got that idea when I heard about a prehistoric plant discovered up there. It was indicated it was coming back to life.
    Due to the lack of competition, it is theoretically possible that some kind of plant could 'take off' once the temperature gets high enough, and start sucking CO2 out of the atmosphere very rapidly – ACTUALLY LEADING TO ANOTHER ICE AGE.

    This could explain part of the ice age cycling process we know about.

    juz tinking …

  • I just wonder if one day the climate change deniers will regret their stance. While we all burn up due to increasing greenhouse effect. But will it be too late at that point? Extinction?

  • so this speeds up "global warming"? thats why the artic sheet is 60% larger than ever before this year? crock o crap science agenda

  • Maybe we should be complainig to our government about their Geo-Engineering/Weather Modification/Weather War Fare Projects.

    This from NOAA web site.


    System name:

    Individuals Engaged in Weather Modification Activities, COMMERCE/NOAA-8.

    System location:

    Assistant Administrator for Oceanic and Atmospheric Research, NOAA, U.S. Department of Commerce, 6010 Executive Boulevard, Rockville, Md. 20852.

    Categories of individuals covered by the system:

    Individuals and associations involved in weather modification operations,around the World.

    Categories of records in the system:

    Individual's name and address; type of weather modification activity; location and duration of project; and equipment used.

    Authority for maintenance of the system:

    Pub. L. 92-205; 15 CFR part 908.

    Routine uses of records maintained in the system, including categories of users and the purposes of such uses:

    See routine use paragraphs in the Prefatory Statement. Also information is made available to anyone who so requests to comply with Pub. L. 92-205.

  • Whenever I come across a climate change video from NASA I squint and try not to look at how many FOX followers disliked the video

  • I have the solution for the environmental problem but no one believe in my idea if you go to you tube ander Jaime's idea
    Or Jamie's idea # 10

  • Back in 2013 the CARVE mission found a 150km are in the Arctic Ocean that was bubbling with Methane. NASA stated 2 weeks ago that the final report will be out in early spring though did state that the Methane release in the Arctic is much higher than anticipated. What happened the following years after seeing the 150km bubbling in the Arctic? 2014, the hottest globally in recorded history and 2015 was even hotter. The Methane gun has been fired. Love one another, enjoy each day as abrupt climate change has begun.

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