This website provides information and data from the Northern Circumpolar Soil Carbon Database (NCSCD), a spatial dataset created for the purpose of quantifying storage of organic carbon in soils of the northern circumpolar permafrost region.

The biosphere holds large carbon pools which, if destabilized through changes in climate and land use, can lead to accelerated emissions of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. Carbon stored in permafrost soil is one of the least understood and potentially most significant carbon-climate feedbacks because of the size of the carbon pools and the intensity of climate forcing at high latitudes. In the past, the areal extent of permafrost soils and the carbon pools they contain have been underestimated. The NCSCD was compiled to address this problem by accounting for the full spatial extent of permafrost affected soils as well as the specific soil processes that lead to long-term carbon sequestration in these soils. In total, almost 25 % of all land in the Northern Hemisphere is affected by permafrost (18.7×106 km2). In these areas, permafrost soils have been estimated to store 1,672 Pg carbon, which is more carbon than what is currently stored in all the combined atmosphere and living vegetation of the earth.

The spatial base of the NCSCD is a polygon database describing soils in the northern circumpolar permafrost regions. The database was compiled by combining and homogenizing several regional/national soil maps. To calculate storage of soil organic carbon, these soil maps have been linked to field-data on soil organic carbon storage from a total of 1,647 sites from around the circumpolar permafrost region.

The database was developed as a collaborative effort by scientist from Canada, USA, Russia and Europe. The digitization and translation to English of the individual soil maps were supported by the USDA National Soil Survey Center. All database development, GIS work and data analyses were supported by the Research Branch of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

Download data

The NCSCD contains information on fractions of coverage of different soil types (following U.S. Soil Taxonomy nomenclature) as well as storage of soil organic carbon (kg/m2) between 0-30 cm and 0-100 cm depth. The NCSCD is available either as a polygon-based database (which is the original format) or converted to gridded data. Gridded data products are available in different spatial grid resolutions and in formats adapted for use in desktop GIS-applications and model applications.


For a detailed scientific description of the creation of the NCSCD and the gridded dataset available see this paper published in the journal Earth System Science Data Discussion. Please refer to this paper if you make use of any dataset downloaded from this site:

For an example of how the NCSCD has been used for a quantification Soil organic carbon stocks in the northern circumpolar permafrost region, see:

  • Tarnocai, C., Canadell, J., Mazhitova, G., Schuur, E.A.G., Kuhry, P. and Zimov, S. (2009) Soil organic carbon stocks in the northern circumpolar permafrost region. Global Biogeochemical Cycles, 23, GB2023, doi:10.1029/2008GB003327

Technical information about the NCSCD

Please read further about The Northern Circumpolar Soil Organic Carbon Database.

Contact and database management

If you have any questions regarding the Northern Circumpolar soil Carbon Database, please contact the database manager, Gustaf Hugelius, via email:

gustaf DOT hugelius AT natgeo DOT su DOT se.

The scientific development of the NCSCD is guided by a the NCSCD Scientific Steering Committee:

  • Charles Tarnocai, chairperson (Agriculture and Agri-food, Canada)
  • Peter Kuhry (Stockholm Univ., Sweden)
  • Gustaf Hugelius (Stockholm Univ., Sweden)
  • Chien-Lu Ping (Univ. of Alaska, U.S.A)
  • Gabrielle Broll (Univ. of Osnabrück, Germany)
  • Lutz Schirrmeister (Alfred Wegener Institute, Potsdam, Germany)
  • Dimitry Konyushkov (V.V. Dokuchaev Soil Science Institute, Moscow, Russia)

The map shows the extent of the northern circumpolar permafrost region and soil organic carbon content to a depth of 1 m, estimated using the Northern Circumpolar Soil Carbon Database.