Cryospheric Sciences

You left us too early: a eulogy to permafrost

You left us too early: a eulogy to permafrost

Most problems faced in research are complex and require creativity and critical thinking. Thus, we need to be creative in science! Or maybe, science itself is creative and there is no such thing as non-creative science. Anyhow, in today’s world, where TED-talks, science slams and elevator pitches, not to mention tweets, are ubiquitous, it is important that scientific expression takes on a form that can be understood by a professional audience, as well as by the public at large.

​ Creative Permafrost Science

I carried out my PhD project at the Alfred Wegener Institute, Potsdam, Germany, where I examined permafrost in Siberia and communicated my science.
First about the permafrost: Permafrost is perennially frozen ground that covers a large area of the Northern Hemisphere and can reach depths of hundreds of meters. Furthermore, a large amount of organic matter is stored in these permafrost soils, for example in the form of plant remains, which forms a large carbon stock. With ongoing climate change, this organic matter can be decomposed by microbes leading to enhanced greenhouse gas emissions, further intensifying climate warming – the so-called permafrost carbon climate feedback.
Now about the science communication: during my PhD, I was involved in science communication activities where I discussed the relevance of permafrost research with school classes and students. We often discussed what we can do against permafrost thawing. Unfortunately, not many geo-engineering techniques can help us preserve permafrost, especially not on a large scale; the main thing we can do is to fight climate change. This is of course a bit sad, to study something that is bound to change, likely irreversibly, in the next decades to centuries. I like to write poems which are often inspired by nature. This poem is a eulogy for permafrost for the year 2322, in which I look back at how we treated or rather neglected permafrost over the past 300 years.

​RIP Permafrost

You left us too early
You seemed eternal
But it was not meant to be

For thousands of years so long
You stored organics, you were so strong
But there are only so many stones in a riverbed
The microbes are back, the doctor said

Humans built houses, roads and pipes
Trying to keep you in line and the likes
Yet you broke free, free to and move
We all know how you like to groove

Close to the rivers and the coasts, humans built
They should have known the ratio of ice to silt
They blamed you for their collapsing plates
Such high coastal erosion rates

Humans hung you out to dry, actually more like drowning
They watched the greening and the browning
They watched you slide and slump and burn
And form gullies and lakes at every turn

Humans came and drove with heavy trucks
Disturbing a sensitive system full of feedbacks
Leaving tire tracks for decades, the mess
Full of waving cotton grass

You left us too early
You seemed eternal
But it was not meant to be

Further reading:

Edited by Lina Madaj and Marie Cavitte

Loeka Jongejans just finished her PhD at the University of Potsdam and the Alfred Wegener Institute, Potsdam, Germany. She carried out biogeochemical investigations of the organic matter stored in permafrost deposits in Arctic Russia. As climate warming leads to permafrost thaw, organic matter that was previously freeze-locked can be decomposed by microbes whereby greenhouse gases are produced and released. Apart from biogeochemistry of the cryosphere, Loeka has been involved in outreach activities including organizing science events for school kids and students and developing outreach products. She likes to write poems and to combine art and science. She tweets as @JongejansLoeka.
Contact Email:

This guest post was contributed by a scientist, student or a professional in the Earth, planetary or space sciences. The EGU blogs welcome guest contributions, so if you've got a great idea for a post or fancy trying your hand at science communication, please contact the blog editor or the EGU Communications Officer to pitch your idea.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>