Permafrost – dark, ice-flaked, permanently frozen ground that lies under tundra and boreal forests across our northern regions – covers more than 12 percent of the earth's land mass. It exists in places that seem otherworldly and unimaginably remote to most of us, but the changes taking place in the permafrost layer may ultimately affect the lives of every person on Earth.
In The Big Thaw, readers meet a diverse team of scientists and students who have been studying the permafrost and what lies beneath: a vast store of ancient carbon, more than four times the quantity found in all of today's forests, which is releasing carbon dioxide and methane as the permafrost melts. The release of all this carbon would alter Earth's climate forever. Braving endless hordes of mosquitoes, quicksand, and extreme temperatures, the researchers are racing against the clock to educate us all about the changes we must make in order to preserve Earth's carbon balance.
Eric Scigliano has written for National Geographic, New Scientist, Discover, Harper’s, Technology Review, The New York Times, and many other national publications. He lives in Seattle.