active layer

noun
(in arctic or subarctic regions) the layer of soil, above the permafrost, that thaws during the summer.
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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Example sentences
The active layer of permafrost, the uppermost ground layer, thaws in the summer
  and freezes in the winter.
Plastic solar cells, no matter how well designed, have intrinsic limits
  dictated by the polymers that make up their active layer.
Until about two years ago, the companies who make silicon wafers weren't able
  to make the active layer thin enough.
Surface soils called the active layer thaw out each summer and refreeze in
  winter.
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