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World's permafrost mapped in detail

Thawing permafrost has far-reaching ramifications

ZURICH, Switzerland | February 22, 2012

"areas with permafrost have potential for unpleasant surprises"

—Stephan Gruber

A Swiss scientist has created a map of the word's permafrost zones he says will help determine the effects of thawing permafrost on populated areas.

Thawing permafrost caused by climate change will have far-reaching ramifications for populated areas, infrastructure and ecosystems, scientists say.

Glaciologist Stephan Gruber from the University of Zurich has modeled the globe's permafrost zones for the first time in high resolution, a university release reported Monday.

In his study, Gruber estimates the global permafrost regions -- where rock or soil are below freezing temperatures for at least two years -- at 8.5 million square miles, a sixth of the world's exposed land surface.

"As a result of climate change, areas with permafrost have great potential for unpleasant surprises," Gruber said. "That is why it is all the more important for politics and the public to be aware of the problem of thawing permafrost.

With a grid resolution of one square kilometer, Gruber's maps are the most precise permafrost maps in the world.

"My maps visualize the otherwise barely visible phenomenon of permafrost."

2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights

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