Permafrost is warming at a global scale

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Permafrost warming has the potential to amplify global climate change, because when frozen sediments thaw it unlocks soil organic carbon. Yet to date, no globally consistent assessment of permafrost temperature change has been compiled. Here we use a global data set of permafrost temperature time series from the Global Terrestrial Network for Permafrost to evaluate temperature change across permafrost regions for the period since the International Polar Year (2007–2009). During the reference decade between 2007 and 2016, ground temperature near the depth of zero annual amplitude in the continuous permafrost zone increased by 0.39 ± 0.15 °C. Over the same period, discontinuous permafrost warmed by 0.20 ± 0.10 °C. Permafrost in mountains warmed by 0.19 ± 0.05 °C and in Antarctica by 0.37 ± 0.10 °C. Globally, permafrost temperature increased by 0.29 ± 0.12 °C. The observed trend follows the Arctic amplification of air temperature increase in the Northern Hemisphere. In the discontinuous zone, however, ground warming occurred due to increased snow thickness while air temperature remained statistically unchanged.


  • Boris K. Biskaborn
  • Sharon L. Smith
  • Jeannette Noetzli
  • Heidrun Matthes
  • Gonçalo Vieira
  • Dmitry A. Streletskiy
  • Philippe Schoeneich
  • Vladimir E. Romanovsky
  • Antoni G. Lewkowicz
  • Andrey Abramov
  • Michel Allard
  • Julia Boike
  • William L. Cable
  • Hanne H. Christiansen
  • Reynald Delaloye
  • Bernhard Diekmann
  • Dmitry Drozdov
  • Bernd Etzelmüller
  • Guido Grosse
  • Mauro Guglielmin
  • Thomas Ingeman-Nielsen
  • Ketil Isaksen
  • Mamoru Ishikawa
  • Halldor Johannsson
  • Anseok Joo
  • Dmitry Kaverin
  • Alexander Kholodov
  • Pavel Konstantinov
  • Tim Kröger
  • Christophe Lambiel
  • Jean-Pierre Lanckman
  • Dongliang Luo
  • Galina Malkova
  • Ian Meiklejohn
  • Natalia Moskalenko
  • Marc Oliva
  • Marcia Phillips
  • Miguel Ramos
  • A. Britta K. Sannel
  • Dmitrii Sergeev
  • Cathy Seybold
  • Pavel Skryabin
  • Alexander Vasiliev
  • Qingbai Wu
  • Kenji Yoshikawa
  • Mikhail Zheleznyak
  • Hugues Lantuit
External organisations
  • Alfred-Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research
  • Geological Survey of Canada
  • WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research SLF
  • University of Lisbon
  • George Washington University
  • Joseph Fourier University
  • University of Alaska Fairbanks
  • University of Ottawa
  • Institute of Physicochemical and Biological Problems of Soil Science, Russian Academy of Science
  • Laval University
  • Humboldt University of Berlin
  • University Centre in Svalbard
  • University of Fribourg
  • University of Potsdam
  • Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences
  • University of Oslo
  • University of Insubria
  • Technical University of Denmark
  • Norwegian Meteorological Institute
  • Hokkaido University
  • Arctic Portal
  • Komi Science Center, Ural Branch, Russian Academy of Sciences
  • Melnikov Permafrost Institute of the Siberian Branch of the RAS
  • Free University of Berlin
  • University of Lausanne
  • Northwest Institute of Eco-Environment and Resources, Chinese Academy of Sciences
  • Tyumen Scientific Center of the Siberian Branch, Russian Academy of Sciences
  • Rhodes University
  • University of Barcelona
  • University of Alcalá
  • Stockholm University
  • Institute of Environmental Geoscience of the Russian Academy of Sciences
  • United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Earth and Related Environmental Sciences
  • Climate Research
Original languageEnglish
Article number264
Number of pages11
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Jan 16
Publication categoryResearch