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Collaborative Research: Speleothem records of permafrost thaw and paleoclimate in the North American Arctic


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Given the possibility of substantial greenhouse gas release from thawing permafrost in a warmer future, as well as the threats to infrastructure from thawing permafrost, understanding the response of permafrost to past warmth is of fundamental importance. Speleothems (stalagmites and stalactites) only are expected to grow in Arctic caves when the overlying permafrost has thawed and no longer presents an impermeable barrier to seepage from the surface into the cave. This project will develop a record of when speleothems grew in Arctic caves and, consequently, under what past climatic conditions continuous permafrost thawed. The principal investigators will develop a website designed to educate lay audiences on how speleothems are used to study past climate. They will participate in the Cambridge Science Festival’s Science on the Street program, which provides an outlet for scientists to engage with public audiences attending community events on their research. This project will contribute to STEM workforce development by helping launch the research programs of three early-career scientists, as well as supporting the training of two graduate and three undergraduate students.