Lecture: Detecting the Lit Fuse of the Arctic Carbon Bomb

The Woods Hole Research Center (WHRC) will host a community lecture entitled, “Detecting the Lit Fuse of the Arctic Carbon Bomb” on Wednesday, May 7 at 5:30 pm, featuring WHRC Associate Scientist Robert Spencer and professional science and conservation photographer, Chris Linder. The presentation will discuss their research trip to the Siberian Arctic where warming temperatures threaten to release the ancient carbon contained in the thawing permafrost, and the subsequent impacts to global climate change. The two will provide a brief overview of the research and show photographs of the team in action in this fantastic landscape.

Permafrost soils in the Arctic contain vast quantities of ancient organic carbon. When thawed, the decomposition of this organic carbon releases the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and methane to the atmosphere, fueling a self-reinforcing cycle between permafrost thaw and global warming. The term “carbon bomb” has been used to describe this process in both the popular press and scientific journals. The May 7 presentation will provide an overview of recent research carried out by WHRC in this area and offer new insights into how climate warming impacts carbon cycling.


Photo by Chris Linder


Dr. Spencer is a biogeochemist whose research examines how humans are impacting the global carbon cycle, especially at the land-ocean interface. He studies how streams and rivers provide a novel window into the mobilization of ancient organic carbon in the Arctic.

Mr. Linder is a research associate at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and Senior Fellow with the International League of Conservation Photographers. His passion is communicating the stories of scientists working in the field. In the last ten years, he has documented over 40 expeditions from Antarctica to the Congo, and his images have appeared in museum exhibits, books, calendars, documentary films, and magazines worldwide.

The lecture will take place at 5:30 pm in WHRC’s Harbourton Auditorium, 149 Woods Hole Road, Falmouth, MA. There is no charge and the public is invited to attend. Parking and seating are limited, however, and reservations are highly recommended. To reserve, call 508-444-1517.

WHRC is an independent research institute where scientists investigate the causes and effects of climate change to identify and implement opportunities for conservation, restoration and economic development around the globe.