Introduction to Permafrost

  • Use a video that introduces permafrost and its distribution on Earth. The video also describes the changing nature of permafrost across several regions due to higher surface temperatures and the possible impact of permafrost thawing on Earth’s climate owing to the release of methane, a greenhouse gas.
  • Continue by facilitating a discussion.

Play the video 'Thawing Permafrost' by NBC Learn, to get introduced to the topic of permafrost. Use the video to understand the characteristics of permafrost and its distribution across the globe. Then, explore how permafrost is used to study soil conditions for periods dating back to several thousands of years by drilling boreholes and extracting ice cores for analyses.

  • Discuss how higher surface temperatures cause changes in permafrost conditions, leading to the thawing of permafrost in many regions. Further, discuss how this thawing has led to local environmental perturbations such as sinkholes, landslides, increased vegetation, and an enhanced active-layer bacterial activity.


  • Finally, explore how permafrost thawing can lead to the release of greenhouse gases such as methane to the atmosphere which can in turn, impact the Earth’s climate.

Image shows methane bubbles up from the thawed permafrost at the bottom of the thermokarst lake through the ice at its surface.

Video Created by NBC Learn as part of the 'Changing Planet' series, in partnership with the National Science Foundation (NSF)