Global data portal for permafrost temperatures and active layer thickness

With the help of a new established database, scientists get easily access to temperature development and active layer thickness data, which can be integrated into their models.

Thawing permafrost soils have a major impact on the Earth's climate. However, up to now this issue has not been considered in any climate model. This is going to change now. For the first time ever, the Global Terrestrial Network for Permafrost (GTN-P) gives the opportunity to get measurement data of the permafrost temperature and active layer thickness in the Arctic, Antarctica and in high mountain areas at the same platform.

Where is the data from?

In order to measure the temperature in permafrost and the active layer thickness, scientists need to drill a hole in the icy soils, before installing sensors. During expeditions, the gained data will be read out regularly. "Up to now our databank shows data from 1,074 boreholes, whereas 72 are settled in Antarctica and 31 in the European and Asian high mountain regions. The 961 stations left are widely spread over the Arctic", says GTN-P director Boris Biskaborn, scientist at the Alfred Wegner Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and  Marine Research. In the past, that data never has been available in such a format, suitable for global models. In an article from the Earth System Science Data (ESSD) the GTN-P database was presented by Biskaborn and colleagues, who also propose the possibility to provide exact locations for potential new drilling sites. The reliability on global models will be increased hereby.

The raised data is downloadable for free and can be easily found via the GTN-P Data Management System. Due to the unrestricted availability, not only scientists but politicians, governmental agents or other interested parties have access and are therefore able to use the information as basis for decisions. "Especially in regions, where houses, roads, railways or pipelines are affected by the thawing permafrost, great damages can be caused. In that cases the database can be used as an early warning system." says Biskaborn.

New measurement results are included in the database after 12 months by the GTN-P team. The reason therefore is to give the contributory scientists the possibility to assess and publish their results. Furthermore the GTN-P team is going to report about the state of the permafrost and possible changes every two years.


Biskaborn, B. K., Lanckman, J.-P., Lantuit, H., Elger, K., Streletskiy, D. A., Cable, W. L., and Romanovsky, V. E.: The new database of the Global Terrestrial Network for Permafrost (GTN-P), Earth Syst. Sci. Data, 7, 245-259, doi:10.5194/essd-7-245-2015, 2015.

Text, photos and graphics unless otherwise noted are under license of: | CC BY4.0 | Earth System Knowledge Platform - knowledge of eight research centres of the Helmholtz-Association.

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