Scientists in Arctic monitor North America's 'air conditioner'

Beyond the Arctic Circle, teams of scientists measure widening slumps as ice melts beneath the tundra. They scuff through tussocks blackened by unexpected fires, and search for fish in drought-depleted streams.

The researchers are taking the pulse of a warming Earth in a landscape supremely adapted to cold, one that may be an early-warning zone for lands far south.

"It's not just an Alaska thing," said Syndonia "Donie" Bret-Harte, associate science director at Toolik Field Station. "What goes on here has a potential to influence the rest of the Lower 48."

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