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Permafrost in the climate system

The research project “Constraining uncertainties in the permafrost-climate feedback (COUP)” aims at increasing our knowledge of permafrost in the climate system. COUP is a project of the European Commission JPI Climate program. The project gathers researchers from eight European universities in a joint research initiative that will run until 2018.


Across vast Boreal and Arctic biomes, the severe climate means that the ground never thaws in summer but stays perennially frozen in permafrost. These frozen soils hold huge stocks of soil organic matter which have been protected from decomposition over long time-scales. As the global climate warms, thawing permafrost may lead to increased greenhouse gas release as these soils thaw and soil organic matter is decomposed. Scientists agree that this permafrost-climate feedback is important to the global climate system, but its magnitude and timing remains poorly understood.