Welcome to the ISOPERM — a new, multidisciplinary, collaborative research project investigating the stability of permafrost in Siberia throughout the last ca. 2 million years.

Siberian permafrost is a major carbon store, containing double the amount of carbon found in today’s atmosphere. Anthropogenic global warming threatens the stability of this ancient permafrost, with the potential to release vast amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, further exacerbating climate change.

This project aims at the reconstruction of past continental temperatures, seasonal characteristics, and historical permafrost extent, thus establishing critical thresholds for Siberian permafrost formation and thaw that can inform predictions of permafrost dynamics in the near future.

Image: Seb Breitenbach
Image: Thomas Opel


ISOPERM is a collaboration between the Department of Geography and Environmental Sciences at Northumbria University, United Kingdom, and the Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research in Potsdam, Germany. We work closely with colleagues at The Technical University of Irkutsk and the Arabika Speleoclub in Russia, the LARA Lab at the University of Bern, the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf in Germany, the University of Oxford in the UK, and the Israelian Geological Survey.

This project is funded by The Leverhulme Trust.

News and events

Thomas departs for Canada

25 May 2022

Our very own permafrost expert Thomas Opel will be heading out to the Yukon and Northern Territories of Canada today for fieldwork.

Follow Thomas on Twitter @iso_topel

Kick off meeting

24 May 2022

After a year of pandemic related delays our international team finally got to meet in person in Vienna this week, allowing us all to see each other in three dimensions, instead of pixellated on a zoom screen.

We’re hiring!

17 May 2022

Do you know any enthusiastic science undergraduates interested in a summer placement? It’s paid, you’ll learn loads about micropaleontology and geochemistry… and you get to work with the fantastic ISOPERM team.

Application deadline is 30th May. Find out more here.

Dispatches from the field

We spent a month in Siberia collecting speleothem samples throughout February 2022. Check out our travel blog and explore what it’s like doing fieldwork in some of the coldest regions on Earth.

Photo gallery from our 2022 fieldwork

Conference presentations

EGU 2022, 26 May 2022, Reconstruction of Holocene wildfire occurrence using levoglucosan and lignin biomarkers from Siberian stalagmites by Jade Robinson et al, room 0.49/50, 13:38 CET (Short oral presentation)

EGU 2022, 26 May 2022, RA late Miocene seasonality and wildfire record from northern Siberia utilising novel speleothem proxies by Stuart Umbo et al, room 0.49/50, 13:52 CET (Short oral presentation)

UK Arctic Science Conference, 11 – 13 April 2022, Durham University (poster)

Analytical facilities

Get in touch…


Jongejans, L. L., Mangelsdorf, K., Karger, C., Opel, T., Wetterich, S., Courtin, J., Meyer, H., Kizyakov, A. I., Grosse, G., Shepelev, A. G., Syromyatnikov, I. I., Fedorov, A. N., and Strauss, J.: Molecular biomarkers in Batagay megaslump permafrost deposits reveal clear differences in organic matter preservation between glacial and interglacial periods, The Cryosphere, 16, 3601–3617. https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-16-3601-2022

Courtin J, Perfumo A, Andreev A, Opel T, Stoof-Leichsenring K, Edwards M, Murton J, Herzschuh U. (2022). Pleistocene glacial and interglacial ecosystems inferred from ancient DNA analyses of permafrost sediments from Batagay megaslump, East Siberia. Environmental DNA. https://doi.org/10.1002/edn3.336

Umbo S, Lechleitner F, Breitenbach S. (2022). The story of interglacial permafrost unraveled in frozen caves, Past Global Changes Horizons, vol. 2, 41 – 45 https://doi.org/10.22498/pages.horiz.2.41